Vortex of a different kind: Tierney’s viral proposal - INTERVIEW
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • January 15, 2014 @ 11:28am
Proposing to a significant other is more-than-likely a nerve-racking experience.
You don’t want the occasion to be cheesy or run-of-the-mill. The special moment craves a personal touch, a well-thought out location and smooth execution. You’ll probably be nervous and may chomp aggressively on your nails.
Despite a few unexpected snags, University at Buffalo residence hall director Frank Tierney pulled off a proposal to his girlfriend on Dec. 30, 2013, that’s spread rapidly through the national media—to HLN, the sister site of CNN, the Huffington Post and Yahoo.
Watch the embedded video above for the proposal and a brief interview with Tierney and his fiance, Katelyn Illingworth (pictured).
To lend a little local flavor to the national story, I briefly chatted on the phone with Tierney on Tuesday.
“I never gave it a thought [that the proposal would go viral],” admitted Tierney, who’d dated Illingworth for the past two and a half years. “We weren’t even going to put anything [about the engagement] on Facebook—we just wanted to keep the memories on camera to have them for the future.”
When the story began to go viral—mushrooming from the Reddit post of Dave Pfeiffer, the lead singer of Tierney’s band, Monday Night Mistake, and the quirky sharing nature of Redditors—the newly-engaged couple had to rapidly revise plans.
“We started calling family members to let them know [about our engagement] at 1 a.m.,” Tierney said. “We were headed to Tampa the next day to see [Katelyn’s] parents, but we didn’t want family to learn about the news on Facebook.”
The snags prior to the video may have been the most amusing part, as originally Tierney planned to take Illingworth to Left Bank for dinner in order to allow his cohorts—family members, friends from UB South Campus’ Goodyear Hall and members from his local band—time to set up the “Will You Marry Me?” lights out the dorm windows, re-route buses, clear parking spaces near the proposal zone and even redirect campus police.
More noteworthy is the root of the Left Bank choice—Tierney’s cousin bought him a gift certificate to the restaurant with the sole intention of keeping Illingworth away from the UB South Campus as the scene was meticulously set.
A problem arose when Illingworth received free tickets from her work, Ingram Micro, for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra at the First Niagara Center, canceling dinner plans and nullifying Tierney’s control over time as Illingworth drove separately to the show—essentially, Tierney had to bank on the orchestra taking its time performing.
Fortuitously, with three hours of hard-rock influenced classical music ahead of Tierney, his friends had ample time to prepare.
Integral figures were involved, too, as Will Tierney—Frank’s brother and bassist in his local band—called dibs on lighting up the “Will” in the message.
At the wedding between Monday Night Mistake’s drummer, Michael Lindstrom, and his wife, Kirsten, Illingworth reeled in the flower bouquet, so Tierney made sure Lindstrom was included in the staging of the proposal gig—you know, just to further a longtime wedding tradition.
As you can see, this was one detailed operation, but, at the end of the day, Tierney wasn’t overly concerned that every bit of his plan be carried out perfectly.
“As long as she said ‘yes,’ that’s all that mattered.”
The couple’s luck continued as the trip to Tampa allowed them to miss Buffalo’s Polar Vortex.
Due to all the media attention, however, Tierney and Illingworth had a vortex of their own to deal with.
(Photo of Tierney and Illingworth is courtesy of Tierney’s Facebook page, while the other photos are screenshots from the Huffington Post video).