PITTSBURG, Kan. — Blake Bullinger's proposal to his girlfriend set the bar high for others, and in doing so, attracted national media attention.
He met Carly Stene at Pittsburg State University, where Bullinger is a senior in automotive management and Stene is a senior in clinical lab science.
For her September birthday, he presented her with a wooden drawer knob and mysteriously told her she had to wait until their two-year anniversary in October to receive the rest of it.
"I knew he was building me something, but I didn't know what," Stene said.
Their anniversary celebration on Oct. 9 included his mother and her parents and a chest-high present draped in a blanket. As Stene uncovered what Bullinger had built — a hand-crafted wooden armoire for her jewelry — she gasped, said she was going to cry, then began peeking in drawers.
Because of moves between school, her parents' home in Lenexa and her clinical studies at a Kansas City hospital, she said, "I always kept my jewelry in Ziplock bags, or in a basket, and nothing was organized.
"He noticed it was something I needed and wanted."
Bullinger explained various features he wanted to customize for her, but she declared it "perfect." But he encouraged her to keep looking and Stene discovered her favorite treats inside, including candy bars and other goodies.
In the last drawer, she found a surprise: a small box with an engagement ring inside.
"I was so excited to get the armoire that a ring was a total shock," she said.
In the video, tears stream down her face, and as she covers her mouth in disbelief, Bullinger drops to one knee and tells her she makes him the happiest guy in the world.
She said yes, of course.
The following day, Stene uploaded the video to YouTube in an effort to share it with grandmothers and friends at a distance. It quickly caught fire, and by Monday afternoon had been seen 1.5 million times by viewers from around the world — including Mongolia, Belgium, Ireland.
It attracted the attention of "Good Morning America" and the "Today" show, which called Stene and Bullinger in recent days and did phone interviews that appeared on national broadcasts. The Huffington Post also called for an interview.
"We never in a million years expected anything like this," said Stene of their sudden fame. "It was nothing we’d expect to be famous for. It was so really sweet of him; we just wanted our family to see how sweet it was."
Bullinger isn't admitting aloud how long it took him to craft the armoire: He just shakes his head and says "You don’t want to know."
It's by far the best gift Stene said she has received.
"I know how much time and effort he put into it. I’m a really sentimental person," she said. "And he used his great-grandpa’s tools to make it. That makes it all the more special. I want to have daughters so I can tell them, 'You'd better keep this in the family forever.' "
For now, in addition to planning for graduation, the couple is looking forward to tying the knot in July 2015.
This story was provided by The Joplin (Mo.) Globe.