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Love stories to warm your heart

Rhea Stenvik and David Northington of Alexandria are planning a June 21, 2014 wedding. (Contributed)1 / 6
Eileen and Bill Dietzler of Alexandria will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary on June 14.2 / 6
Shane and Sarah Olson were married August 25, 2006. They are pictured with their two children. The family now lives in Little Falls. (Photo by Leah G Photography)3 / 6
Kim Thoennes of Alexandria credits her husband, Chuck, for standing by her during her recent medical issues.4 / 6
Today, Judi Rost is doing well and has been cancer free for nine years.5 / 6
When Judi Rost decided to shave her head since she was losing her hair from her chemotherapy treatments, her husband, Len, shaved his too to show his support. 6 / 6

Ah, Valentine’s Day…the perfect day to tell that special someone just how much they mean to you.

The Echo Press put a call out to readers, asking them to share their stories of love, romance, or special Valentine’s memories

0 Talk about it

Here are some of the responses we received!

God’s plan brought us TOGETHER

Submitted by Bill Dietzler of Alexandria.

When one marries, he or she can only hope that their marriage will last and their love for each other will grow and endure.

This June 12, 2014, my wife, Eileen, and I will celebrate our 60th wedding anniversary. It was God’s plan that brought us together. It was his love that carried us through the good and difficult times.

As I look back now, I thank God for partnering me with this beautiful, spiritual woman.

Chocolate covered strawberries

Submitted by Sarah Olson of Little Falls.

In 2005 my boyfriend, Shane, was deployed with the National Guard to Iraq. We spent a year of “dating” apart. He returned home around New Year’s 2006.

At the time he came home we had been together for five years, knowing at some point we would get married. After a post deployment trip together with friends to Vegas and still no ring or engagement, I gave up on the idea that a wedding would be in the near future.

Fast forward to Valentine’s Day – a Hallmark holiday, in my eyes, but I often celebrated it because it’s also my half birthday. Convenient.

Shane decided to take me out to the Old Broadway restaurant in Alexandria, for my half birthday, where they were having horse-drawn carriage rides. My first thought was, “This is it! Perfect. What a romantic way to propose!”

It was very cold but I was ready! Shortly after getting in the carriage the guy in front of us proposed to his girlfriend. How romantic! My turn next... or not.

Once again, no proposal. I thought, “Oh well, I’ve gone five years. What’s more?”

We had an amazing dinner and I was eyeing the turtle cheesecake for dessert. The waitress came to check on us and I said I’d love the turtle cheesecake, but she suggested the chocolate covered strawberries.

“Hmm, I didn’t see that in the menu,” I said. “Nah, I think I will go with the cheesecake.”

Shane insisted we get chocolate covered strawberries. “Let’s do something different,” he said. “Fine,” I told the waitress. “We’ll get the strawberries.” I really wanted that cheesecake!

Shane and I were in conversation when the waitress delivered the strawberries. I politely looked at her, said thank you, and went back to the conversation. I noticed someone was taking pictures of us (for promotional purposes I figured) so I didn’t want to look.

The waitress kept standing near me and moved the plate of strawberries in front of me. She bent down and whispered to me, “You might want to look down.” So I did, and I saw the following words written on each of the seven strawberries: “Will you marry me? Yes. No.”

“Well, yeah!” I said, smiling ear to ear! However, still no ring. Shane said nothing but pointed at the strawberries. The waitress told me to choose a strawberry. I chose Yes. At that moment, pictures were taken and rose petals were tossed at us. The ring was under the Yes strawberry.

We were married August 25 of that year (11 days after my birthday). Here we are almost eight years later, still enjoying chocolate covered strawberries, now with two kids and a dog, living in Little Falls.

I never did see the pictures taken that day, and Old Broadway closed before I could figure out who took them. 

Brighter than SUNSHINE

Submitted by David Northington of Alexandria.

My fiancée, Rhea Stenvik, myself and her two daughters from a previous marriage drove to St. Cloud for some shopping and dinner on Saturday, December 14.

We headed to a large craft store first. Next door to the craft store was a jewelry store and an electronics store.

I had previously shopped online for engagement rings so I knew what I wanted to buy. I told the girls as we parked by the craft store that I was heading over to the electronics store. They all bought my ruse.

I started walking toward the electronics store until I was out of their sight. I then ducked into the jewelry store and bought the engagement ring.

I hid the ring in the car and met the girls in the craft store. We then drove to a nice restaurant for dinner. We drove back to Alexandria after dinner and I had a hard time concentrating.

I told my fiancée and her daughters to sit in the living room once we got home. I told them I had a video to show them. I had previously teased my fiancée I would make a slide show of all the funny pictures I had taken of her.

Unknown to her, I had prepared a slide show of all our best pictures of us and our family members and set it to the song Brighter than Sunshine by Aqualung.

I started the video on the television. Tears formed in my fiancée’s eyes as one photo dissolved into the next. Pretty soon all three of them were crying as the music crescendoed. I placed a poem I had written at the end of the video. I dropped to one knee as the text slowly rolled up the screen and proposed, pulling the hidden ring out of my pocket.

My fiancée said yes, crying more. I had to replay the video for the girls, where they all cried again and my fiancée could actually see all the words I had written. Here is the poem:

When was that moment?

Sitting in the lunchroom?

Was it the first kiss?

Or looking into your eyes?

Waking up with you after?

Having found you finally

Knowing absolutely clear

That the search was over

Six months since it happened

One second in endless time

I knew I would propose

Spend the rest of my life with you

So take my hand and this ring

Marry me and grow old with me

I promise we will be happy together

Until the end of time

Because our love

Is Brighter than Sunshine!

You stood by ME

Submitted by Kim Thoennes of Alexandria.

On July 24 I called my husband, Chuck, at work for help. He rushed home to find me on the floor. He took me to the emergency room. They did what they could, then I was air-lifted to St. Cloud Hospital.

They found bleeding on the brain, which took two weeks to find the cause. Every day I was given an ultra sound until they found the cause – an aneurysm.

On August 9 I went into surgery to clip the aneurysm. I was told this was routine surgery and there was a 1 percent chance of complications, but that all changed when my artery was unrepairable and I lost one of the arteries to my head.

After surgery, the doctor told my family that there was only a 10 percent chance that I would regain consciousness, and it would be good to get the family together. But I somehow regained consciousness and talked with all my family.

Later that night, I had a stroke because of blood flow to the brain. I spent two weeks after in ICU and a total of 65 days in St. Cloud Hospital.

Now is the time to thank everybody who stood by me. Chuck, I did not know what love was until you stood by me through this crazy time. My daughter, Alicia and her family, I do not know what I would do without you. My son, Craig, I do not know what I would do without you. And to all my best friends – thank you.

Editor’s note: Kim is doing well. She recently completed her rehabilitation program in Alexandria, and passed her driving test.


Submitted by Judi Rost of Alexandria.

My husband and I have been each other’s support for the 46 years of our marriage. We’ve been there for each other through thick and thin times.

In 2004, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. On January 18, 2005, I ended up with a double mastectomy. After the surgery the doctors originally told me that they got everything and I was clean of cancer. Before leaving the hospital I was informed that they found additional cancer cells in my lymph nodes and that I would need chemotherapy when I returned home.

So on February 1, I began my first treatment of chemo. The first treatment made me very sick. I became very weak and could no longer leave my bed. I could stay up for a few minutes at a time, just long enough to take a shower and change clothes and then go back to bed.

Food was not an option for me, as just looking at it made me throw up. My husband finally purchased some 7UP for me and I could keep that down so that was my main food supply for several weeks.

After the first week following chemo, I noticed my hair was falling out. In between throwing up and pulling out chunks of hair, I thought about having my head shaved.

My husband, Len, had been so supportive of me through my entire ordeal, from helping me shower in the morning, helping me from the bed to the table or into my glider rocker, praying with me and just making sure I was comfortable.

It was the day before Valentine’s Day in 2005 when I made my decision to shave my head.

When I mentioned it to my husband, he was supportive of me to take this step. 

I had a beautiful full head of hair that I prized, but I knew that it eventually would all be coming out. It made me sad to see long strands on my pillow and in the toilet and when I brushed it after my shower.

He also made the decision to support me by stating he would have his head shaved also.

I suggested that we call the grandkids that lived nearby to come and help Grandma and Grandpa shave their heads. The evening of Valentine’s Day I was unable to go out and celebrate. I couldn’t appreciate having any flowers or candy or anything special, as the chemo had made me so sick and weak that I just didn’t care about any of that.

My daughter, Jodi, and her husband, Brad, own and operate Broadway Floral, so it was their busiest day of the year. Yet in the evening they brought their son, Derek, over to the house and our other grandson, Carter, was there. Together we let them take turns shaving our heads.

Len told me that there wasn’t a lot more he could do for me personally, but he did support me and my bald head by shaving his. I thought it was the most selfless act he could do for me or for anyone on Valentine’s Day.

Editor’s note: Judi celebrated her ninth year of being cancer free in January.  She retired in 2013 and stays busy with her flower gardens, target shooting with her husband, traveling, and wintering in Texas. She is also currently writing a novel.

Tara Bitzan

Tara Bitzan is editor of the Echo Press. She joined the company in 1991 as a news reporter. A lifelong resident of Douglas County, Tara graduated from Brandon High School and earned a bachelor of arts degree in mass communications and English with a minor in Scandinavian Studies from Moorhead State University. She and her husband, Dennis, and their children live near Alexandria.

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