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Roadrunner says ‘I do’ in SMC's Alumni Plaza

Zackary Creager’s marriage proposal to Kayla Ellard might be a first for Southwestern Michigan College’s Alumni Plaza. The education majors met in an SMC mathematics class and they are alumni, so the circle of inscribed bricks festooned with flags seemed obvious to Creager, a 2012 Constantine High School graduate from Marcellus. As far as firsts, SMC mascot Ronnie Roadrunner escorted Ellard across stage at commencement in 2015 to accept her diploma from President Dr. David Mathews.

Ellard, a 2013 Mendon High School graduate, requested the towering orange bird’s presence because she wore the costume during her two years on campus.

Despite thoughtful planning Creager’s proposal nearly careened off the rails, however, as his intended grew increasingly irritated by his odd behavior.

What kind of ruse does it take to lure someone casually to Alumni Plaza on March 19 without arousing suspicion? — especially as his eyes dart from tree to tree, trying to find bridesmaid Elizabeth Hensler waiting with a camera to document the momentous popping of the question on bended knee.

Their song, Brad Paisley’s “Then,” inspired his proposal:

“And I remember, taking you back to right where I first met you,

You were so surprised

There were people around, but I didn’t care

I got down one one knee right there and once again,

I thought I loved you then.”

“I had the whole weekend planned out,” from dirt bike racing in Detroit, church and a swing by the Dowagiac campus, Creager said.

Then they returned to Olive Garden, site of their first date in 2015.

“I was trying to understand why it was so important we came here,” Ellard, 23, recalled. “He was really distant. He kept pushing me away (because of the ring concealed in his coat pocket). I was getting irritated. He said, ‘They’ve done remodeling.’ And he kept pulling his phone out. (Hensler) was hiding in a pine tree. He was really weird. I was so confused I was really getting mad.”

The couple, who moved to Portage in August, will wed April 28, 2018, at The Ponds of Coldwater.

Getting acquainted fall semester 2014 was not without hiccups, either.

“I had a boyfriend at the time,” Ellard said. “All the seats were full when he walked in” to their Foster W. Daugherty Building classroom.

“A girl and I sitting at a table together offered to let him sit with us. We started talking, getting to know each other as classmates. He would say stupid stuff and I would punch him because I liked him, but I couldn’t tell him I liked him because I had a boyfriend.”

Creager, 24, who commuted to class from Marcellus, worked out at the Student Activity Center, where she worked.

He is employed fulltime at Meijer and as a referee at SoccerZone.

Creager is considering returning to SMC for a bachelor’s degree in business through Ferris State University after the wedding.

“I want to build my own dirt bike business,” he said, “with a shop and track for camps for amateur riders. I know a few pro riders.”

Ellard transferred to Grand Valley State University to pursue education, but switched gears to enroll at Ross Medical Education Center in Kentwood and became a medical assistant at Borgess at Woodbridge Hills.

SMC “was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Ellard said.

“When I graduated from high school, my parents moved to Kentucky, so I was on my own. I moved into the dorms (Jerdon, then McKenzie) and lived from package to package of Ramen noodles.

“Coming here helped me grow because I had to become very independent,” she said. “I was bullied in high school, so when (classmates) went to Western, Glen Oaks, KVCC or Grand Valley, I didn’t want any part of it. I was the only person here from Mendon until my second year, but I’m glad because this is a good school.”

They intend to mark their union by adding their own inscribed brick to Alumni Plaza.