Man proposes to former Miss Nottingham on the Newark Palace Theatre pantomine stage
A couple who met after a rugby match staged in memory of her war hero uncle, where he was representing his former regiment, got engaged on the Newark Palace Theatre pantomine stage.
Adam Howard, who was a last-minute inclusion in the team that thrashed a side from Newark Rugby club in September 2017, surprised beauty queen Alicia Loveday at Aladdin.
An announcer at the Palace Theatre got Adam out of his seat with a pre-arranged ruse that his car was badly parked and needed moving.
Alicia was summonsed to the stage on the pretence of some audience participation.
Adam, 23, popped the question on bended knee in front of an audience that included 25-year-old former Miss Nottingham Alicia's family and she instantly said 'yes.'
The couple first met at a rugby match that was organised by Alicia's mum, Sinel Loveday and family, in memory of her brother, Corporal Ivano 'Sean' Violino —a rugby man — who was was killed in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in September 2007 when an improvised explosive device detonated under a vehicle in which he was travelling.
He was the 79th British casualty of the 13-year war, which claimed the lives of 454 UK and Commonwealth Forces' personnel.
The free 1940s-themed event raised money for Armed Forces charities SSAFA, which provides welfare and support for serving personnel, veterans and their families, and the Newark Patriotic Fund, which provides similar support locally.
Sean's unit, 36 Engineer Regiment, provided a team to contest the match.
Alicia, who was dressed in 1940's military attire at the event, told the Advertiser: "I was too busy eating my cheesy chips to watch much of the game but I did say to Kirsten (her sister) 'look at him.'
"I guess you could say I had my eye on him from the start.
"Some of the Army lads were going out in town after the game and Kirsten and I, my cousin Kiera Linton and her mum Amelia (Sean's sister) went too.
"I was nervous about speaking to him.
"If it hadn't been for his mate I might not have done.
"He came over and said that his friend Adam wanted my number.
"I told him he couldn't have it but there was a reason for that — I'd been cut off.
"I don't think Adam believed me until I followed that up by telling him he could have my Facebook, Instagram — there were like 20 I reeled off as ways he could contact me.
"It was a good night. I didn't get home until 3am and I had work the next day too."
While Alicia wasn't sure she'd hear from Adam again once he returned to his base at Carver Barracks, Saffron Walden, and said as much to Kirsten. He had other ideas.
He made contact and romance blossomed.
"It's serendipitous," Alicia said.
"If mum hadn't organised the event in memory of uncle Sean, if Adam hadn't been drafted in as a last-minute replacement, if we hadn't decided to join them on their night out; we wouldn't have met."
Alicia said she had no hesitation in saying 'yes.'
"There was a big cheer from the audience when I did," she said.
Sapper Adam sought the consent of Alicia's parents in advance and told them of his plan.
Adam's job with 35 Engineer Regiment EOD is to seek out Improvised Explosive Devices, or IEDs so they can be neutralised — the same job Sean had at the time he was killed.
He said: "I knew the outcome would be 'yes' and that I would leave that performance with a fiance, so that helped me massively, but I think that was the most nervous I have ever been in my life.
"There were a lot of people in that theatre.
"If I could get through those couple of minutes, I would be spending the rest of my life with the woman I love — the woman I couldn't love any more than I do."
Adam contacted the Palace Theatre in advance.
"I can't thank them enough for making it so special for her," he said.
"I wasn't supposed to be at that match. They were short and I knew one of the organisers from the Army side of things.
"I wanted to play because of the terrible thing that happened to Sean so it meant something to me, and Army lads stick together.
"I was warming up with my mate and I saw her and her sister walk across the carpark.
"I had no idea who she was at that stage.
"All I remember thinking is 'I hope she doesn't have a boyfriend', and thankfully she didn't.
"The rest, as they say, is history."
Adam, who plays fly half, says he and Alicia are now inseparable.
He also scored on the pitch in a 63-14 drubbing of the Newark Rugby Club team, touching down two tries and kicking nine conversions.
The couple have now been together for 15 months, but won't be rushing into marriage.
That'll happen in around five years time as they want to save up enough for their own house first.
In the meantime, Alicia has moved in with Adam's mum and step dad in Wigan.