Popping the question

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Wedding proposals take on a variety of forms, from the mundane to the highly imaginative. But surely one of the most romantic gestures came Nov. 20 and resulted in the engagement of Enumclaw's Bea Fagnan and Justin Murrell. Murrell popped the question in written form, dropping a two-bedsheet sign from the port side of the USS Fife as the destroyer pulled into Pier B in Everett. Through a dense fog, Fagnan, and everyone else, could make out the red and blue letters asking "Bea will you marry me." Fagnan, waiting on shore with her mother and a dozen members of Murrell's family, was given several opportunities to provide her sailor the answer he wanted. She screamed "yes," was handed three balloons spelling out the answer and, finally, was provided a megaphone.

"I was pretty sure what the answer would be," Murrell, 20, said. "When I was gone, we had talked about getting married."

Fagnan, 22, said she wasn't at all surprised her fiancé, a gunner's mate on the Fife, would pull such a romantic stunt. Murrell"s plan was hatched during a cross-state drive in May. He and a Navy buddy had made a hasty trip to Pullman, where Fagnan was completing her degree at Washington State University. She admits she was having "a bad day," and Murrell convinced a friend to join him on the back-and-forth trip, so the couple could visit for a few hours.

During the long trip from Pullman to Everett, suitably inspired, Murrell hatched the plan that would be carried out six months later. He then went to sea for a six-month deployment, part of the Fife's crew of 350. Murrell's father, Carl, and Fagnan's dad, Jim, flew to San Diego and did a ride-along, staying on board for the four-day trip home.

After arriving in San Diego, Murrell bought the engagement ring he'd been saving for, and then asked Jim Fagnan for his daughter's hand. All went as Murrell anticipated.

Getting a sign made was as easy as asking the two sailors in charge of mending sailors' uniforms. They stitched together two bedsheets and created a pocket at the bottom, where two broomsticks added necessary weight. Murrell and a friend taped off the letters and spray-painted the proposal. Of course, a sailor can't drop a sign from the side of a U.S. destroyer without going through channels. In that regard, Murrell had smooth sailing. The Fife's commander, F.L. Ponds, was hugely supportive, even asking if he could participate in the proposal.

Murrell and Fagnan were high school sweethearts, had gone their separate ways, and then reunited three years later. Next July, they plan to wed.

The bride-to-be earned her bachelor's degree from WSU and now attends City University, working toward her goal of becoming an elementary school teacher. Murrell has more than two years of military service remaining and explains his stint in the Navy is planned as "a springboard to what I want to do when I get out." His goal is to join the State Patrol.

For now, he'll be stationed in Bremerton aboard the USS Camden, as the Fife is being decommissioned.

Kevin Hanson can be reached at

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