Yes! Woman wooed with newspaper proposal

Sunday, September 2, 2001

FRIEDHEIM, Mo. -- With all the Labor Day sales, the Saturday newspaper was full of advertisements, but Michael Phipps wanted the girl he loved to read just one.

It was just after 7 a.m., and 27-year-old nursing assistant LeeAnn Chronister had worked a long shift at Perry County Hospital. She wasn't all that interested in the newspaper. Phipps had picked her up from work, and she was freshening up for a videotaped message to his sister in Australia before she went to bed.

Phipps, 26, had already set up the video camera in the back yard, and her parents, Arlie and Marie Chronister, were waiting. LeeAnn couldn't get out of it.

Meanwhile, Phipps fussed with the camera, ready to launch into his own brand of reality TV.

Waiting, Marie looked at the Southeast Missourian. Finally, she called LeeAnn over to look at an ad.

LeeAnn sat next to Marie, glanced at the newspaper and wondered why on earth her mother thought she'd be interested in an advertisement for hearing aids.

Then the biggest advertisement on the page caught her attention.

Below an image of a fairy tale castle and a short poem were the words:

-- LeeAnn Chronister, will you marry me?

Stunned, she looked up from the newspaper.

There was her Michael on one knee. In her yard. In front of her parents. And holding a ring.

For Phipps, a marketing analyst in St. Louis, this moment was the culmination of four years of courtship and a year of careful planning.

They met through an Internet chat room and exchanged messages for about a month before Phipps asked to meet her. In February 1997, he drove through an ice storm and showed up at her house with a half-dozen roses, a book of poetry and a bottle of wine.

Chronister's older brother -- armed with tin snips and not wild about an Internet courtship -- cornered Phipps and told him he would kill him if Phipps hurt his sister. The rest of the family was skeptical as well.

Still, the relationship blossomed. Her spontaneity helped soften the edges of his compulsive planning, and he fell in love with rural life. He gave her the opportunity to travel and treats her like a queen.

Now was the big moment.

Phipps had thought out every detail, even down to which pocket he would hide the ring in (left side, in case she patted him on the leg while they were riding in the car). Sparkling wine was chilling in a cooler in the trunk of his car.

He had checked and double-checked the camera setting.

The small cast of characters had taken their places.

A weepy Chronister nailed her one line: "Yes!"

They don't have a wedding date, but with Phipps as the groom, all is sure to be meticulously planned.

abuchanan@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 160

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