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Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022

Prince Charming ‘pops question’ at prom

CINDY WOOD/independent feature writer

Who needs a glass slipper when you’re holding some serious bling in your pocket?

Morella Mills gasps as her boyfriend, Marine Private First Class Luke Ray, reaches into his pocket for an engagement ring. (Cindy Wood/Van Wert independent)

Saturday evening’s prom at Van Wert High School had all the makings of a classic Cinderella story. VWHS senior Morella Mills already knew who her Prince Charming was. She also knew the clock was ticking and the next day (not midnight), her prince, Crestview High School graduate and Marine Private First Class Josh Ray, would board a plane for specialty training at Norfolk, Va.

What she didn’t know, however, was that her prince would become her fiancé the clock struck 12 after a surprise proposal in front of a packed gymnasium during the promenade. As the couple strolled in together and made their way to the center of the gym floor, Ray turned to Mills, dropped to his knee, and pulled out a ring.

“Of course, I said yes!” Mills said. “There wasn’t a chance that I would say no! There wasn’t a doubt in my mind.”

Which was a huge relief for the nervous groom-to-be, who admits his entire body was shaking as they came into the gym. “I was so nervous,” Ray admitted, adding, “I’m sure if the cameras could have got me as I was walking in, you would have seen my whole body shaking.”

The couple’s young love story began two years ago when they met at youth group at Jennings Road Church of Christ, where Ray’s father, the Rev. David Ray, has served as senior pastor since 2000. Both Ray and Mills were coming out of relationships at the time, and the two leaned on each other for support.

“It kind of grew on both of us, I think,” Mills said. “We didn’t even talk to each other for a while because we didn’t really know each other.”

But at a youth event one night at the church, Ray was looking to get Mills’ attention. “So he smacked me in the face with a pillow,” Mills said with a laugh.

“I had to do something,” Ray countered.

Regardless, it got her attention and the two finally exchanged numbers and began dating in June of 2011. “We were both kind of at low points because we both had gone through break-ups, but we just talked each other through everything and it kind of grew from there.”

Although she knew it meant Ray would have to leave her side when he became a Marine after his high school graduation, she fully supported his decision, as did Ray’s father, who is extremely proud of his son’s decision.

“He asked me one day ‘Dad, what do I do? Should I become a Marine or go to college?’” David Ray said. “I told him by all means became a Marine, because I won’t have to pay tuition,” he added, jokingly.

“But I told him it was his choice, and that God had given him gifts to make an impact that only he can,” Rev. Ray went on to say, “and I think he believes that this is what God has called him to do.”

After 13 weeks of basic training at Parris Island, S.C., Ray was sent to the Camp Geiger School of Infantry in North Carolina for further training. He was home on leave for three weeks before he would depart for Virginia for specialty training, which gave him enough time to plan the proposal.

Fortunately, he had some help from both families. “Josh had already bought the ring, and after he had gone back to infantry training, Mo’s dad, Matt, and I were talking after a midweek Bible study that he and I are a part of,” David Ray said, “and we knew that after Josh came home from the school of infantry it may be a couple of years before we would see him again.”

Together, the men discussed Ray popping the question at prom. Then Mill’s father went a step further and suggested Ray propose during promenade. “So Josh and I snuck into the high school a while back and spoke with (VWHS Principal) Bill Clifton to let him know what we were thinking. Then he started calling administrators and, all of a sudden, there was a roomful of people figuring out how we were going to pull this off.”

The proposal went off without a hitch. While the couple may be young, they each said it’s the right decision at the right time. “Our relationship started out of a friendship, and I think that’s really important,” Mills said. “He’s my absolute best friend and we are both completely honest with each other; well, except for the whole proposal thing,” she added with a laugh.

Ray agreed, and said they are so alike it’s scary sometimes. “We’re almost mirror images of each other in terms of how we feel about things,” Ray said. “I just took the time I needed and I prayed about it and thought about it and I just came to know in my heart that she was the one. It’s what I felt and what I believe in.”

Ray professed those feelings to Mills as he asked for her hand in marriage. “I told her I loved her more than anything and that I wanted to promise her forever,” Ray said.

“He was so sappy!” Mills added with a laugh.

On the way to the airport the next day to see her fiancé off, Mills reflected on her big moment, noting that she was overcome with emotion. “It’s hard to describe how I felt, but looking back, it does kind of seem like Cinderella, with my Prince Charming, my Marine,” she said. “We just had such an amazing night celebrating with all of our friends.”

For the families, who were in on the secret, it was a proud and memorable moment. “I was tearing up and trying to take a hundred pictures,” David Ray said, “but to see the genuine joy on Josh’s face, and his confidence as he was walking with her … that’s a moment that nobody will ever take away from me.”

With her high-school graduation right around the corner, Mills is anxious to begin her life with her Marine. “I’m going to hold off on college for right now until we know where Josh will end up,” she said. “But I’m looking forward to getting a full-time job and begin saving money.”

Both Mills and Ray said they’re extremely grateful for their families, who are in full support of the couple. “We’re close with our parents and my dad has fallen in love with Josh and treats him like a son,” Mills said, adding, “and Josh’s dad is kind of our pastor, so his approval is very important to us. We’re just so thankful our parents and families are on board with it.”

And just like the classic love tale, Cinderella and her prince are ready to head off into their own version of “happily ever after.”

POSTED: 04/29/13 at 5:35 am. FILED UNDER: News