Most Viewed Stories
Yuman's marriage proposal was right on target
The ring had been burning a hole in Zak Harlow's pocket since December. He panicked once when his girlfriend Laurel Dougherty placed her hand on his leg.
But she didn't feel it, she says now.
Not that Dougherty, 29, didn't suspect a proposal was coming. She had spotted a receipt from a jeweler and forced herself not to look for the ring.
“I wanted to be surprised,” she said.
Harlow, 31, did manage to shock her. He popped the question on Thursday, and Dougherty didn't expect it at all.
She expected it last week when they went to Lake Tahoe to celebrate Harlow's birthday. When it didn't happen, she thought he would do it this coming week, when they went to the Bahamas.
He did consider proposing underwater as they scuba-dived in the Caribbean. But, as he explains, it's scary to hand over such a precious ring to a stranger in a foreign country.
And they might drown in the excitement, Harlow joked.
So he ditched that plan in favor of one he knew she wouldn't suspect.
“If you knew how many times this plan changed,” Harlow said. “It was important to me that it be (a) surprise.”
One of their favorite things to do as a couple is to go target shooting, so Harlow called Richard Sprague, owner of Sprague Indoor Shooting Range, and together they came up with the perfect plan. They enlisted the help of the Yuma Sun, and the newspaper eagerly agreed to join the conspiracy.
Harlow would propose to his unsuspecting girlfriend at the shooting range. Sprague would hide a “Will you marry me?” sign behind a paper target, which she would see when she tried to exchange it for a new one. Hopefully she would hit the “yes” box, but in case her aim was off that day, Harlow put a second option right below, “Certainly.”
But how would Harlow get Dougherty to the shooting range in the middle of a workday? He would tell her that Sprague asked if they could be photographed by the Yuma Sun for a gun safety news story.
As the moment approached, Harlow was nervous, calling the Yuma Sun to review the plans. But he need not have worried. The proposal went off without a hitch, so to speak.
After firing off a couple of magazines, Dougherty pulled the target toward her to change it. She peeled off the target and paused for a few seconds as she read the message. Her aim was good, and the “yes” box was riddled with bullet holes.
Shocked, Dougherty turned around to face Harlow, who by then was on his knees and holding out the ring.
He asked her to make him the happiest man on Earth. She kissed him, hugged him tightly and said yes. Both wiped tears from their eyes. And then she couldn't stop kissing and hugging him, with occasional glances back to the sign.
She had no idea the proposal would happen that day, she confessed.
“I don't know what to think. I'm absolutely overwhelmed.”
Dougherty had wondered why everyone was staring at them. “I'm glad I curled my hair,” she said, laughing.
Harlow admitted that it had been a “nightmare keeping it from her,” especially since they work in the same office.
All of her friends and family knew about the coming proposal, but they had strict orders not to communicate with her until after 4 p.m. for fear that the surprise would be spoiled.
“I'm glad it's over,” he said, sighing with relief. “I love her, and I'm very excited.”
Their romance began last July. Harlow, regional manager of the Aflac office in Yuma, met Dougherty, also an Aflac employee from Phoenix, on a company rewards trip to Seattle.
Sparks flew immediately, he said.
Not so, she said. She had to work to get his attention. “He was ignoring me. I had to flirt.”
He was playing hard to get, he joked.
But Harlow was hooked when he learned she had gone bear hunting and was very involved with the National Rifle Association. He had grown up in the outdoors, hunting and fishing, in Amarillo, Texas.
They made plans with other friends to go camping the following weekend. They met up again the next month in a training trip to Washington, D.C.
From then on, Harlow and Dougherty were inseparable, and she moved to Yuma in January to be with him.
Mara Knaub can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6856. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSMaraKnaub or on Twitter at @YSMaraKnaub.