Dayton couple, Tyler Musselman and Lillian Hulce got engaged on Friday, March 20. CONTRIBUTED

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Global pandemic or not, one Dayton man was determined to follow-through with a marriage proposal.

Tyler Musselman bought an engagement ring for his girlfriend, Lillian Hulce, on Sunday, March 15, just as state mandates from the governor regarding the COVID-19 pandemic began. With the help of friends on some creative touches, Musselman planned to pop the question on their fourth anniversary at Hulce’s favorite restaurant, The Melting Pot.

Then some coronavirus curve balls headed the couple’s way as dine-in restaurants were shut down days before the planned proposal.

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While Musselman juggled the decision and financial uncertainty surrounding the ongoing coronavirus outbreak and whether or not it was the right time, Shelly Hulce, now his future mother-in-law, eased his worries by telling him, “This is now part of your family’s history.”

“Right now, this is your history,” Shelly Hulce said. “My grandparents got married in the Depression and I still remember their story. I still have my grandmother’s ring, which during the time was a huge deal for anyone to have anything like that in the Depression. I was explaining that to (Musselman), just how important that is to have life.”

Shelly Hulce was able to coordinate with family friend Amber Bromer, owner of Salon Noir in Lebanon, to use the loft and event space free of charge above the salon to create a beautiful, social-distancing friendly proposal space.

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“I figured with all of the negativity and scary things going on in the world, we all needed some positivity,” Musselman said. “I’ve loved Lillian since the day I first laid my eyes on her. She’s so special and important to me … I think that given the current circumstances with the world, now was a great time for a proposal. What better time to show her I’d go through anything in the world with her than now?”

Shelly Hulce quickly began helping Musselman prepare plan B by shopping for bouquets, champagne and food for the candlelit dinner surprise that would be awaiting Lillian Hulce at a “photo-shoot” she believed she was going to on Friday.

While shopping at Dorothy Lane Market for the dinner essentials, Shelly Hulce said she was convinced that despite the pandemic, this was still perfect timing for the engagement.

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“People are looking at me while they’re in a panic trying to get toilet paper and food,” Shelly Hulce said. “Everyone’s kind of giving me strange looks and one guy goes, ‘Wow, you’re going to the end of the world in style!’”

When Shelly Hulce told the shoppers the items in her cart were for her daughter’s surprise proposal, people in the store started cheering.

“They were so desperate to have something good,” Shelly Hulce said. “It was just so great, total strangers. … It’s contagious, the fear is contagious. But so is the joy. I found that out real quick. People are just looking for something joyful and here these strangers are just celebrating total strangers.”

No surprise to the family, Lillian Hulce said yes on Friday night above the Lebanon salon. So despite both being laid off work for two weeks because of the coronavirus, it’s a perfect excuse to spend quality time together in celebration.

“Even though it may be hard to make ends meet currently, I still want her by my side through all of this, because if we didn’t have each other, we wouldn’t have anything,” Musselman said. “We live in scary times but when I look at her, I feel security and comfort.”

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