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Catie said yes. She was so excited she couldn't remember if she had actually answered, but yes:

Catie Keomahavong of Warren said she will marry Terrence Williams II of Ypsilanti. In fact, she would love to.

As for Terrence, he was so excited he couldn't remember what he ordered for lunch. But the waitress had come by before he showed Catie his copy of Wednesday's Detroit News.

There was his picture, in my column on Page 2A. Her picture, too. He asked her to read the words aloud, and at the end, she came to this:

"Terrence wants to know, Catie, with thoughts of 2015 and all the years after that …

"Will you marry him?"

In a fragment of a second, it seemed, he was out of the booth and on one knee, ring in hand. Then she was hugging him and crying and he was hugging back, and just like that, they were engaged.

It was a lively and lovely scene for the last day of 2014, and a wonderful portal into a promising New Year.

Terrence and Catie are young and enraptured and entwined. They have faith in one another and their God, and watching them together you can picture them in the same restaurant in 50 years, celebrating another anniversary and wondering where the years went.

"He is so patient. So selfless," Catie said. "He always puts everything else before himself — family, church, kids."

"A constant giver," Terrence said. "I love that about her. She has a huge heart."

They are both youth ministers, both college students, both responsibly employed, both focused.

Terrence, 24, is ever mindful of her heritage; she's the first-generation child of a Hmong mother and Lao dad. He asked her father for his permission and blessing before he bought the classic white gold ring with the diamond and the outline of the Laotian national flower, the dok champa, beneath it.

Catie, 26, had never even considered that Laos might have a national flower.

"He knows more about my culture than I do," she said, while she's the coupon-clipper and the one who's more likely to focus on details — except for this time.

A little subterfuge

Awhile back, Terrence took her to a jewelry store, theoretically to look for watches. While he perused that case, a friend of his behind the counter had Catie try on rings, which is how he learned her size.

On Tuesday, he had another friend invent a reason to take her for a manicure, and her French nails looked elegant with the ring.

The staff at 5ive Restaurant in the Inn at St. John's in Plymouth had been alerted that a proposal was in the works, so the couple was shown to a large and private booth.

As the tears dried, the inn graciously sent over a bottle of Champagne. Terrence and Catie were so involved in the moment that they didn't hear the cork pop.

Beaming even as she wiped her cheeks, Catie worried that she was smearing her makeup. Terrence said it didn't matter.

"You talked to my dad?" she said. "I'm just shocked my parents were OK with it."

Not that they would have objected, she said, but they might have worried.

All in the (new) family

They're fond of Terrence, who has mastered enough Hmong to chat briefly with Catie's grandmother.

Consider, though, what someone from another continent learns from movies about young black American men. Terrence had to earn their trust, and even that can be a long way from earning a place in the family.

"They know he loves me, loves my family and loves God," Catie said. "Those are the three most important things."

The rest is open to discussion. He'd like to marry in the fall, while she'll probably want to hold off until the following spring. Downtown Detroit is an inviting place to live, but maybe Livonia would be more practical.

One thing she knows for certain: It's about to become easier to write checks.

"I've been waiting for a shorter last name," she said, and then she wiped away another tear and broke into the sort of inviting laugh you could spend a lifetime with.

nrubin@detroitnews.com

@nealrubin_dn

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