Erika Diffendall felt something was a little odd recently when her longtime boyfriend, Luke McClung, texted to say he was going for a run in downtown Fredericksburg.
“It was a little weird because Luke doesn’t run,” said Diffendall, who teaches English at North Stafford High School. “He’s not the one who works out in the family, so it was kind of funny.”
But when her beau suggested they take a walk downtown when he got back, she dropped her suspicions.
It turned out to be a walk that would change their lives.
McClung—who’d originally planned to propose to his sweetheart on a trip to Paris that got canceled by the coronavirus—improvised. He used his skills as a graphic designer to re-create French landmarks downtown.
And if that wasn’t enough of a shocker, the question-popping details Diffendall shared online were included in a YouTube newscast called “Some Good News with John Krasinski."
The actor/director known for “The Office,” “Jack Ryan” and “A Quiet Place” hosts the show, where he shares stories of good news amidst the sadness of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve gotten hundreds of responses from all over after people saw us on the show,” said Diffendall. “I didn’t think I had that many friends.”
Being mentioned in Krasinski’s “Some Good News” was especially cool to the couple because they share a real passion for “The Office” sitcom that launched the actor’s career.
“The fact that we’re included in this show is funny, because Luke’s whole family loves ‘The Office,' and often have group chats that feature ‘Office' memes,” said Diffendall.
But while being in the Krasinski show was exciting, the young couple is still sky-high about their special proposal.
McClung's first idea—reenacting a scene from “The Office”—was problematic because it would involve too many people. Instead, he gravitated to Option No. 2: using chalk to sketch the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe on a wall in the alley adjoining Market Square in downtown Fredericksburg.
So that’s where McClung and his brother, A.J, were when they were supposedly running last Friday afternoon.
Instead, they’d brought along a ladder that allowed them to draw those Parisian backdrops, and made a little half-circle of roses on the ground forming a spot for him to get down on one knee.
“It took us about an hour to get that done, only because it was so large,” he said. “People thought we were sketching out a mural.”
McClung returned to the house and changed clothes for the walk he’d mentioned to Diffendall, then took her to the alley.
“I was freaking out when we turned into the alley," said McClung. “I was stumbling and really nervous. The proposal was emotional, but a nice and very happy moment.”
Diffendall said she didn’t know anything was up until the couple turned into the alley and she saw her intended’s brother trying to hide behind a bush as he took pictures.
“Luke led me into a little half-circle of roses, at the base of the Eiffel Tower when he asked me,” she said. “He said some really sweet things as we were walking up to it, about how we’ve been dating for four years and how happy he was."
After some more giddy moments and picture taking, the newly engaged pair picked up some French food McClung had ordered and went back home to have a celebratory Parisian dinner.
Diffendall heard from many of her students, who were shocked to see her story trending online. She makes a concerted effort to keep her private life private.
“As a young high school teacher—I started just a few years ago when I was 22—I made it seem on social media like my cat Andre was the only one in my life,” said Diffendall. “My students have been reaching out to me, saying things like ‘I had no idea! What a plot twist! Maybe you can get John Krasinski to come to your wedding.’ ”
Diffendall didn’t think much would come from sharing details of the proposal with Krasinski after the entertainer tweeted out a request for positive stories. She only learned they were included when her phone started blowing up after it aired Sunday.
The now-engaged teacher said the proposal worked out for the best.
“I thought it was even better here, because Fredericksburg has become our home and is very special to us,” she said. “We love the downtown feel and the way people here are all so closely knit.”
No word yet on whether Krasinski will get a wedding invite, though chances are that McClung’s “Office”-loving family back in Pennsylvania would be on board with that.
Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415
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