A secret kept, a promise made

DJ Nelson and Laura Redman. - Conner Webster/Contributed Photo
DJ Nelson and Laura Redman.
— image credit: Conner Webster/Contributed Photo


If Laura Redman’s best friend, Mari Alvarez, had known that Redman’s boyfriend, Army Reserve Capt. DJ Nelson was going to propose last Saturday during Seafair, she would have made sure that they would have had their nails done.

It was a secret.

She agreed that it would not have been a good idea to have been let in on the plans to surprise her friend. Keeping that a secret would have been too much for her, she said.

Nelson, 30, had been planning the surprise for weeks. He and Redman’s parents, Islanders Gary and Cathy Redman, picked Seafair as the perfect time and place for a proposal. Nelson rented a plane to tow a banner with the proposal spelled out. The plane was to fly by the Redmans’ house, perched on the hillside above West Mercer Way, last Saturday morning just before the hydros got underway.

Laura Redman has been a huge Seafair and Blue Angels fan since she was a little girl, her parents said. Their daughter has always been home for the Seafair weekend to cheer and admire the planes, except once — when Nelson returned home from his deployment in Iraq. Now 33, she still has a poster of the Blue Angels, signed by all six pilots when she met the crew in 1984.

On this morning, their daughter remained oblivious, wondering just a bit what a reporter was doing in her mom’s kitchen. It was much too early to think about the Angels overhead. She bantered with friends and family. Her friend Mari seemed to be the only “normal” person, she said later. Her mother, on pins and needles, kept busy serving coffee and answering the door, all the while keeping an eye on the brightening skies outside.

The families had also collaborated on the ring for the bride-to-be. A large star sapphire, which belonged to Laura Redman’s treasured grandmother, was reset with diamonds on a 14k white gold band by Island jeweler Chris Francisco. Francisco, who has known the Redman family for many years, noted that the stone was rare because of its size and an unusual hint of purple in the stone.

“You don’t see many of these,” he said. “It is a special stone.”

As the hour approached, all was in place. The Nelson clan from Spokane had gathered. Nelson’s father, Donald, had even delayed a trip to the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota. The guests moved toward the deck, and a few cameras quietly appeared.

The soldier was nervous; the expectations were high. He gripped his cell phone, waiting for a text from the pilot that he had taken off from Boeing Field.

As the clouds began to lift, the biplane approached the house guided by the 4-by-27-foot blue and gold banner along with a giant bulls eye target, hung from the second story of the house facing the water.

It was nearly time.

The pair met three years ago, just a few months before the soldier was deployed to Iraq in 2008. He served as an executive officer in Operation Iraqi Freedom until 2010 and was stationed at Joint Base Balad in Iraq with the 81st Brigade. Despite the separation, the couple connected.

“They are a match,” Gary Redman said. “They complement each other perfectly.”

She is animated and outspoken. He is quiet and self-contained.

As the plane with the banner approached, Nelson pulled Redman close. He asked her, “What does it say?” She shook her head — it was too far away. He persisted, asking again. She saw the word “Lulu,” DJ’s name for her. Her eyes went wide as she knew. He dropped to one knee. He looked up, holding the ring, asking her another question.

Uncharacteristically, she could not speak, but nodded her answer emphatically. Yes.

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