Monica Cleveland was asked to sit on a soaked bench at Riverside Park Monday afternoon, just moments after it was unveiled.
As her brother, Nick, held an umbrella over her, shielding her from the wind and rain, Cleveland’s boyfriend Julian Gallegos told a crowd of more than 50 how he cherishes their relationship.
“Life is full of surprises. We can all definitely agree on that,” Gallegos said, reading his prepared speech.
Transitioning from surprises in life to surprises in marriage, Gallegos started reciting portions of wedding vows.
Giving everyone a synopsis of their history, Gallegos said he “wouldn’t choose any other woman” to go through life.
Including that Cleveland’s family gave him their blessing to propose, Gallegos turned around, his back to the crowd, and got down on one knee, asking Cleveland to marry him, applause thundering as the couple embraced.
Together for two years, Gallegos said he chose to propose on the day her late father, Polson Corporal William Cleveland, was honored with a bench at the park.
Cleveland, 21, said she didn’t realize what was happening.
“I had no idea at first,” she said, laughing.
The realization that her boyfriend of two years was proposing didn’t sink in until Gallegos, 22, got down on his knee, she said.
The couple said that they appreciate everyone standing outside in the cold, and the proposal added to the already-special day.
The corporal passed away in 2015 from stage 4 Cancer.
Just before the proposal, Polson Police Chief Wade Nash told the crowd that although “William was a man of very few words, but his presence could build a mountain.”
The project, which took about a year and a half, Nash shared, was in part to remember the late corporal, who oftentimes would patrol parks within the city.
“He’d make conversation with you, just to get to know you,” Nash shared, adding that due to Cleveland’s interactions with the public, a standard for incoming staff has been set.
“We are a family here in this community,” he reflected.
The bench is situated at Riverside Park, overlooking Flathead Lake.
“This is to honor him, to give our community a place where we can go back and think about William” as well as his impact on the community, Nash said.
Cleveland is survived by wife Terri, and children David, William, Monica and Nick.