At the Women's Crises and Resource Center's 16th annual Run for Women on Saturday morning, one of the 10-kilometer race contenders had more than a cup of water waiting for her at the finish line.
Halfway through the 10-kilometer race, runner Lee Paterna of Anchorage noticed a buzzing overhead. It was the sound of a small plane with a banner trailing behind that read in giant red letters: "Lee Paterna I love you so ... will you marry me? Bernie."
"I was at about the fifth mile when I saw it," Paterna said. "I thought 'Hey, that's me!' I was really surprised."
Paterna said she started running faster after that and crossed the finish line to a cheering crowd. Her mother, sister, daughter, niece and, of course, husband-to-be were all there waiting.
"Yes. Yes. Yes. I'll marry you," said Paterna, while trying to catch her breath after crossing the finish line.
Her 4-year-old daughter, Sierra, gave her a bouquet of fireweed and hugged her mother's leg, while Bernie Mock the man from Southern California who had popped the question made his way through the crowd.
The couple embraced in a big hug and even bigger kiss, then Mock pulled out the diamond ring and made the engagement official.
When asked how it all came to be between the two of them, Mock said, "The quick version is I came to Alaska, met a beautiful girl and wanted to marry her, but there's actually a lot more to it than that."
Paterna elaborated a little more on their relationship. She said it started two months ago when they met as a result of their separate companies' decisions to start a distributing venture together. As an icebreaker, they booked a fishing charter for the day for everyone to get to know each other.
"We kissed on the boat that day and fell in love two weeks later," Paterna said.
"People may say we're moving fast, but we know it's right," Mock said.
"It's the perfect romance," added Paterna.
The couple have scheduled their wedding for Nov. 15 in Anchorage.
The rest of Paterna's family was equally exuberant for the couple. Larrell Lockard, Paterna's sister, took second place in the 10-kilometer race and was waiting at the finish line to congratulate her sibling.
"I think it's cool and I'm excited for them," she said.
She will be Paterna's matron of honor and believed the couple's short courtship was nothing anyone should second guess.
"They may be moving quick, but my relationship was the same way," Lockard said. "My husband and I were only engaged for six weeks, and we've been married for six years and have two kids."
Lynn Paterna, Lee's mother, also approved of the engagement.
"I think it's wonderful," she said. "Bernie is kind and considerate and will make a good son-in-law. Those two know they're in love and that the time is right they're ready."
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