Friday, April 24, 2015
NORTHAMPTON — It was the ultimate romantic gesture on the eve of the biggest romantic day of the year: a marriage proposal broadcast for all to see.
The answer was “yes.”
On Friday, Don Chapelle, an ice sculptor from Lawrence, carved one of the sculptures in downtown Northampton that are part of the city’s fifth annual Ice Art Festival. Chapelle’s creation, in front of Thornes Market, spells out “Love” in big block letters, in the manner of Robert Indiana’s pop art image, and also includes a large heart, embedded with the message — in bright red letters — “Will You Marry Me Natalie?”
The proposal wasn’t Chapelle’s. In a phone message he left with the Gazette, he said he’d been paid a little extra by Thornes to inscribe his sculpture with the request. Jody Doele, the longtime marketing manager for Thornes, said the heartfelt proposal came from a local man, Matt Hess, who wanted to ask for the hand of his girlfriend, Natalie, in a big way.
As Doele explained it, Hess sent an email about 10 days ago to Penny Burke, director of the Northampton Center for the Arts, which organizes the Ice Festival, asking if it would be possible for one of the ice sculptures to bear his proposal. Doele, who says Thornes has contracted with Chapelle directly for the last few years to create his ice art in front of the market, asked him in turn if he’d be willing to put those words in his sculpture.
For a little bit more money, he was. “It cost over $100,” said Doele. “We were happy to pay that since (the proposal) was such a wonderful gesture, completely in keeping with the spirit of” Valentine’s Day.
Doele, on vacation in Colorado, did not have all the details of the story immediately on hand on Sunday night; it was unclear, for example, where exactly in the area Matt Hess lives, what Natalie’s last name is, or if she also lives locally.
But Doele said she had learned that Matt had taken Natalie on Friday night to see the ice scupture and to consider his proposal.
And, she added, apparently Natalie’s answer was a resounding “yes.”
“Matt texted me and said ‘She was thrilled and she thought it was the best idea ever to get engaged that way,’ ” Doele said. “We’re happy for both of them.”