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Pilot surprises girlfriend with proposal over Minnesota lake

With the help of his family, Gavin Becker carved a conversation heart into Eighth Crow Wing Lake near Nevis, Minn., on Jan. 7, 2018, for his longtime girlfriend, Olivia Toft. Submitted photo1 / 3
She said "yes!" Gavin Becker and Olivia Toft take a selfie during his aerial proposal over Eighth Crow Wing Lake near Nevis, Minn., on Jan. 7, 2018. Submitted photo2 / 3
Submitted photo3 / 3

NEVIS, Minn. — Gavin Becker has set the bar for "most romantic" marriage proposal sky high — literally.

With the help of his family, the 2015 Nevis High School graduate carved the message "MARRY ME" onto Eighth Crow Wing Lake.

On Sunday, Jan. 7, Gavin flew his longtime girlfriend, Olivia Toft, over the gigantic conversation heart.

An aviation student in Grand Forks, Gavin will graduate from the University of North Dakota this spring as a commercial pilot. Olivia is a 2014 Nevis alumna. She graduated from Moorhead State University with a degree in social work.

A few weeks earlier, he enlisted the help of his parents to find an engagement ring. They plotted the various, inventive ways he could pop the question.

"We decided, in pilot style, he should propose in an airplane," said dad Ed Becker. "I actually proposed on this lake in a boat 28 years ago,"

Ed and wife Sara own In-We-Go Resort on Eighth Crow Wing.

For Christmas, Olivia asked Gavin to give her an airplane ride, "so she didn't suspect a thing," he said.

Gavin originally planned to propose on New Year's Eve — but both he and Olivia came down with strep throat.

"So we punted until this weekend," Ed explained.

Gavin's parents, sister Katie and Katie's boyfriend awoke early Saturday morning and spent 4½ hours toiling on the lake message. Using a 200-foot tape measure, Ed said they figured out the top of each letter, then walked the line and eyeballed the bottom of the letter. Each letter stood 25 feet tall and 15 feet wide. Ed used a Toro snowblower to scrape away the snow.

"It was very easy," Ed said. "It was really fun."

Meanwhile, Gavin rented a Cesna plane, but thanks to 25-below-zero temps, it wouldn't start.

"The whole thing was a little bit of an adventure," said Ed, adding that Gavin is a driven, independent do-it-yourselfer. The fact that Gavin asked for the family's help — "that's what's so exciting for my wife and I."

On Sunday, the Beckers "polished" up the message and Gavin made his second attempt at flight.

The couple flew over at 2 p.m.

"I was really impressed how well they did it," Gavin said of his family's jumbo messaging technique. "When my dad does something, he doesn't do it lightly."

While in the air, Gavin said he tried his best to hide the proposal until the perfect moment.

"Trees hid it a little bit. You could read it pretty well," he said.

When Olivia saw the lakeside love note, she said, "Oh, my."

"She looked at me a second, then looked again at the message a second, then back at me. In my head, I said, 'Now's the time to do it.' I fumbled for the ring," Gavin said.

He had a speech prepared.

"In the moment, all I was able to get out was 'Will you marry me?'"

She said "yes."

Gavin described Olivia's reaction as "happy, excited, shocked."

The couple has not yet set a wedding date. For now, they are simply enjoying the moment.