How a Birmingham man needed a team of bankers to save his marriage proposal

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The plan percolated in Mark Adams’ head for weeks, months even.

Scratch that.

It actually began at his little sister’s wedding 18 months earlier, when he first met Maeve Johnson, a friend of the groom.

The attraction between the two was instant.

Now Adams was already contemplating wedding plans of his own. But before there could be a wedding, there had to be a proposal.

He had the moment, a Friday evening after work trimming the Christmas tree. He had family on alert and friends scheduled to stop by and celebrate.

And he had an engagement ring, snug and protected in a safe deposit box.

Then it began to snow.

“I’m at the office early on Friday, for just a little while, and it starts to snow,” Adams said.

He brushed the initial flakes off because a dusting was expected throughout the state, including Birmingham. Then the snow continued.

“It’s Alabama. Everything shuts down,” Adams said. “It hadn’t crossed my mind to take the ring out before because it was supposed to snow a quarter of an inch, then stop.”

Worried that his dream date was falling apart, he headed to his bank branch to retrieve the ring. The bank was closed.

“Now it’s snowing hard. I’m already nervous and stressed about the entire day. Now I’m hitting the panic button. I’d worked on this since Thanksgiving and didn’t think I could go another day.”

Adams called Maggie Cornelius, Johnson’s sister and an attorney who had connections. She called two execs with Adams’ bank – Regions Bank Deputy General Counsel Jeff Lee and Marc Bromstad, part of the Mergers & Acquisitions team. Adams called Kate Danella, the head of Private Wealth Management at Regions.

In return, they made calls, and up to a dozen people at Regions began figuring out how to salvage the young man’s big day. It meant someone would have to risk the elements.

Leslie Nilges, the manager of the Crestline branch, was with her family in suburban Trussville when she got a call asking for her help.

“There was no way I was going to tell his gentleman ‘no,’” she said.

She left everyone behind, hopped in her car and began making a 45-minute, nerve-wracking commute not knowing what to expect in terms of road conditions.

“I’m from the Midwest, so I’m used to driving in the snow. But that’s on treated roads,” Nilges said. “When I got on I-459 and saw a salt truck in the ditch, I was a little concerned.”

Crestline is a hilly Birmingham neighborhood, on the spine of Red Mountain, and is accessed with hairpin turns and up-down streets like a paved roller coaster. She navigated slowly and defensively towards her destination.

She still needed help.

“We have to have two people to open the door, and there has to be a second person (from the bank) in the vault,” Nilges explained. “That’s operational procedure.”

Lisa Law, senior vice president for Branch Support Services, was working nearby from home when she got an instant message from Denise Canfield, the head of Branch Support and Branch/ATM Delivery.

“A customer needed our help at the Crestline Branch and I was asked if I could assist,” Law said. “I had no idea what the issue was but I made a call and offered to help. Once we learned it was an engagement ring, we all agreed we were going to make sure he got it. Really, it was just another day at Regions and another reason I love working with the people I do.”

Nilges and Law were soon joined by Mike Jordan, a Private Wealth Management executive who was part of the original phone calls.

“Lisa and Leslie were there for him, and it was a great outcome for the customer,” Jordan said.

On the worst/best day of his life, Mark Adams had his ring.

Engagement-Story-01-Dec-2017-904x1024

Maeve Johnson and Mark Adams are now engaged, no thanks to the surprisingly heavy snowfall that nearly ruined the proposal. [Photo Credit: Contributed]

“I wanted to go across the street to the Pig (Piggly Wiggly) and get them a bottle of champagne to celebrate, but they wouldn’t let me,” Adams said.

“This is what we do every day,” Nilges explained, “and that’s what makes it gratifying. Of course, it’s not every day that your heart’s beating a mile a minute and you’re racing through snow to help save someone’s day.”

Back home, Adams launched his plan by lighting the tree before Johnson’s arrival to cut down on pregaming. They hung ornaments, then talked about Christmas and futures.

Then Adams stopped and dropped to a knee, offered his heart and presented the ring.

“I was shocked and thrilled when Mark proposed,” Johnson said.

With a “yes” to seal the deal, Adams shared his snow day misadventure.

“I can’t believe what he went through and the lengths that so many went to make this happen for us,” Johnson said. “I’m thankful to everyone for making this a day I’ll truly never forget.”

A week later, Adams can laugh at what transpired.

“It’s great how it all worked out, even better than scripted,” Adams said. “But I couldn’t have pulled it off without a lot of help and a lot of tough logistics. I’m grateful to Regions for making this happen, for letting me in and getting me on our way.”

All in a day’s work, Nilges said.

“We are here to make things happen,” she said. “We are dream makers, not dream crashers.”

Republished with permission from the Alabama NewsCenter.

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