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WFAE's "Finding Joy" explores stories of joy and hope, offering you a bright spot in the news landscape.

Mint Hill kindergarten teacher’s boyfriend proposes with a really big rock

Martin Dreisbach and Shannon Gretsuk at Mint Hill Elementary's spirit rock shortly after his predawn proposal on Jan. 29.
Courtesy of Martin Dreisbach
Martin Dreisbach and Shannon Gretsuk at Mint Hill Elementary's spirit rock shortly after his predawn proposal on Jan. 29.

The PTA at Mint Hill Elementary School is small, having formed less than two years ago when the school opened. Its four officers stay busy raising money for school dances and classroom supplies, collecting household goods for refugee families and maintaining a schedule for painting messages on the school spirit rock — usually birthday greetings for kids.

But last month, PTA President Morgan Munn opened an email that proposed something new. A man they didn’t know said he’d booked the rock for painting on Jan. 28 and had a couple of questions.

“Firstly, I reserved it to ask one of the staff members to marry me, Shannon Gretsuk. Would this be an appropriate use of the rock?” The man, Martin Dreisbach, asked. “Secondly, it was my understanding that there is someone who will paint murals. If such person exists, could you please put them in contact with me?”

Munn quickly shared the message with her three fellow officers: Vice President Brooke Swartz, Treasurer Charlotte Klopp and Secretary Erica Anderson.

Anderson is the designated rock painter. She’s not a professional artist, but she has figured out how to make a 6-foot slab of stone look good. For instance, bring a lot of paint: “It will take two full cans of spray paint just to prime the front of it.”

But before they agreed, they had to be sure this was an appropriate request.

“Our first thought was well, we have to make sure this guy’s for real,” Anderson recalls. “We did a little bit of Facebook stalking, to make sure that they were in each other’s pictures and they really knew each other.”

They were. In fact, Dreisbach had met kindergarten teacher Shannon Gretsuk on the Facebook Dating site. They’re both 52, with adult kids, and they clicked.

“He’s military, and I have a lot of my family who has served in the military too,” Gretsuk explained. She thought for a second and added, “We both have pit bulls!”

After about a year and a half together, Dresibach was ready to pop the question. He wanted to try something showy. First, he thought about writing his proposal in lights across his back fence.

“But that would have been a lot of Christmas lights,” he said, laughing.

Then he remembered the school rock. He tried to get it for Jan. 25, a teacher work day, but it was already booked that week, so he pushed it back a few days. He and Anderson started exchanging ideas, while the rest of the PTA board rooted for them and kept the secret.


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Late that Sunday afternoon, Anderson painted the rock. It was blue with pink letters saying, “Shannon Gretsuk will you marry me?” She added a heart with the Chinese symbol for double happiness, a traditional blessing for couples, per Dreisback’s request. She texted photos to the other board members and they waited.

On Monday morning, the couple carpooled in from Rock Hill. Dreisbach had told Gretsuk he had an appointment in Charlotte and the school would be on his way.

There was just one problem: On school days she has to get there at 6:30 a.m. — an hour before sunrise.

“It was dark, and there’s not really a spotlight on the rock,” he said. He tried to direct her attention to the rock, but “she was like, ‘Yeah, it’s probably just somebody’s birthday.’ ”

A couple of Gretsuk’s colleagues were in on the plan, waiting with roses and a phone to get photos. Dreisbach parked the car and steered her toward the rock — not the way she’d normally walk to get to work.

“I was like, ‘What’s going on?’ And then he started walking me that way and I was like, ‘Uh oh! I think something’s up!’ ” Gretsuk said.

When they reached the rock, Dreisbach dropped to one knee and offered Gretsuk a ring.

The PTA team had ordered cookies for the event. But treasurer Klopp said they did have one concern: “What if she says no? As soon as she says yes we’ll make sure cookies get delivered and stuff like that but you don’t know, right?”

Gretsuk said yes — which was a good thing, because as the sun rose the proposal was out there for all to see. For Gretsuk, that meant a steady stream of excited colleagues wishing her well.

The PTA moms got their cookies delivered, posted a photo on Facebook and basked in the glow of romance.

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Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.