Memorial Bridge - By Shannon McGee from Huntsville, USA - Phish Tour - Portsmouth, NH, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57756809
Structural engineers Dan Del Tufo and Julia Kallmerten got engaged when Dan proposed to her on the Memorial Bridge in Portsmouth, NH, at the Maine border. The Memorial Bridge is a vertical lift bridge, and Dan worked with the NH Department Transportation to have the bridge raised while he and Julia were on it. The two engineers have been involved with the bridge in different capacities, both at the University of New Hampshire and in their professional work. The bridge structure, in addition to carrying traffic, has served as a research platform for UNH’s Living Bridge project.
Dan’s ruse was that they were there to help take some photographs. Julia did not suspect that there was more involved. Dan waited until the bridge structure made it to the top before getting down on one knee to propose. Even better, family members were waiting on the shores to greet the newly engaged couple when the bridge came back down. Dan took a little chance with his assumption that Julia would agree to the proposal, and fortunately it was a good assumption.
The story was tweeted by NHDOT, and then was reported by the Boston Globe. It went viral, being picked up by the Associated Press and many other news outlets around the world.
Julia is an engineer with my company, so I had some follow-up questions for her:
ENR: What were some of the things you did related to the Living Bridge project?
Julia: Absolutely nothing. The Living Bridge project, while fascinating, is my now fiancés claim to fame. His senior project was (from what I can remember) focused on finding the best way to adhere sensors to the bridge. There are sensors located all over the bridge that are constantly taking recordings to measure the effect of traffic fatigue to the steel, measure the effects of the tide to the foundation, etc. My involvement, the reason that DOT let him ask me in the way he did, was based on Harbor Walk Park and other projects down the river. The harbor walk park is located right next to the bridge and gives a direct view of the float that secures the tidal turbines.
ENR: After the proposal on a vertical lift bridge, are you considering having the reception on a swing span?
Julia: That sounds like the only way we could top this proposal… I wonder if there would be complaints with regards to “unwise use of resources” (Facebook comment from a grumpy person who did not understand that the proposal happened during a time of scheduled bridge maintenance). It might make for a short reception.
Sarah Mildred Long Bridge Dmoore5556 – Own Work https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Mildred_Long_Bridge#/media/File:Sarah_Mildred_Long_Bridge_(2018)_4.jpg
ENR: The Memorial Bridge is nice, but were you secretly disappointed that he didn’t propose on the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge?
Julia: Not in the slightest. I know the issues have been resolved, but it wasn’t too long ago that the Sarah Long was stuck in up position. Plus I got some cool photographs of that bridge!
ENR: Is Dan planning to wear a hardhat and (black) safety vest at the wedding?
Julia: I hope so! I’ll wear a white safety vest to match!
Emblem of the State of New Hampshire – Public Domain
ENR: If you had to choose a favorite state motto, would it be “Live Free or Die” or “Vacationland”?
Julia: Live free or die. I’m a NH girl born and raised.
Edmund Pettus Bridge
By Carol M. Highsmith - This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs divisionunder the digital ID highsm.07257.This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11972815
ENR: Any thoughts about the symbolism of a bridge and your upcoming marriage?
Julia: As cheesy as it is, I think a bridge is a great representation of marriage. Each side can be thought of as his and her family, and the bridge is what connects them. My favorite part of the proposal is the moment after I found my voice to say yes. Dan led me to the edge of the bridge and together we threw our hands in the air, as if we had just conquered the world. It was then that the cheering started, and looked to the harbor walk park (and area I helped to design) and both of our families were waiting with flowers and signs. A marriage really is the joining of two families, and it meant the world that my now and future families were there to celebrate with us.
ENR: As the bridge was rising, did you start to think that Dan had something else in mind?
Julia: Honestly, I was completely oblivious to his intentions for a few reasons. First: Dan rode the bridge in college and has been bragging for years, so I was super excited for the opportunity. Second, it wouldn’t have been the first time I got to do something cool for work. A few years ago I took a helicopter ride to Quincy to take aerial photographs after a big storm, so this didn’t seem like an unrealistic work opportunity. Third, one of my hobbies as of late is landscape photography. I purchased a DSLR a little over a year ago and have spent the past year documenting the world as I see it, so when he asked me to come take picture with him for work I assumed they just wanted good quality photos and I was thrilled at the thought of the unique point of view.
ENR: Are you now concerned that upcoming, should you ever have any disagreements with Dan (not that it would happen), he will conclude by saying “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it”?
Julia: I would expect nothing less than that. Dan loves to joke. He even joked about the location (and height) of his proposal and what he would do had I said no… I’m sure the headlines would have been much more depressing.
ENR adds: As long as they don’t burn any bridges.
Burns Bridge @ShrewsburyMAGov via Twitter
We are thrilled for Julia and Dan as they embark on a life of excellent crossings. Kudos to Dan for pulling off possibly the best bridge marriage proposal ever.
Julia, Dan and family. Photo courtesy of Julia Kallmerten