Almost three years after breaking up and living in different cities, two young Brock alumni rekindled their love for each other and got engaged earlier this month at the place they first met four years ago as Brock students: the Brock pool.
Mark Walter (BPhEd ’09) and Michelle Valencourt (BSc ’10) first met as students working for residence life. One night during their training, the entire staff went to the Brock pool. Walter and Valencourt decided to stay in the whirlpool after everyone else left, where they shared the first of many conversations.
The two started dating that year in 2007, but distance pushed them apart. They split up during the summer.
Walter and Valencourt rarely crossed paths over the next three years, but eight months ago, they started dating again.
“Michelle knew right away we’d get married,” said Walter. “I was a bit shy at first, but everyone around me (including ex-girlfriends) noticed how happy I was and that something was different about me.
“I knew Michelle was the one when I realized what everyone else realized; I was happier, always laughing and motivated to make myself better. The more time we spent together, the harder it was to be apart. We both knew we wanted to get married and spend as much time together as we could, for as long as we could.”
Even before getting formally engaged, the pair started planning the wedding for October 2012, but then decided to bump it up to October 2011.
“We thought it would be fun to plan such a big night on short notice. We wanted a small wedding with just family and very close friends,” said Walter. “I’ve always wanted to end up as one of the older married couples that people are amazed with because we’ve been married for so long.”
With the decision made for a wedding within the next couple of months, Valencourt did not expect a formal engagement, or an engagement ring.
“I had already given her a promise ring that her dad had given her mom when they were at Brock,” said Walter. “She thought that would be her engagement ring.”
“The promise ring holds incredible sentimental value to Michelle,” said Walter. “That’s why I wanted to make sure I did something extra special to propose. I purchased an engagement ring that I had specially designed and planned an elaborate proposal at Brock.”
On the Thursday before Brock Days Alumni Weekend, Walter led Valencourt along a tour of Brock with stops in places the couple had shared memories. The last stop was the Eleanor Misener Aquatic Centre. With ring in hand, Walter bent down on one knee on the pool deck next to the whirlpool, declared his love for Valencourt and asked her to be his partner for the rest of their lives.
After Valencourt agreed, Walter led her out to the Walker Complex Courtyard where he had arranged a catered meal on a table draped with red and white tablecloths and set up in an intimate area of the courtyard under two large trees.
“I wanted to do something different instead of taking her out for a normal dinner,” said Walter. “Having a catered meal waiting outside wasn’t the norm. I wanted her to feel special.”
Walter said that he could have never accomplished it without the help of Margie Lizzotti, Nathan Murray, Tanya Thorp of Sodexo and Karen McAllister-Kenny, the director of Recreation Services.
“Mark emailed me a couple months prior with his idea, and you could tell that he really wanted to make it happen,” said McAllister-Kenny. “He explained his connection to Brock — that he was a physical education graduate who had worked at the Zone as a student and shared the romantic story of how he and Michelle met. I thought it was a great idea, so I helped to arrange the proposal and connected him with Tanya for the meal. I even stored the ring in my office while the two toured the campus so that Michelle wouldn’t notice it in his pocket.”
Walter and Valencourt will exchange vows on Oct. 8, 2011, at which time two Brock families will become even larger. Valencourt’s father and mother, Jonathan Valencourt (BSc ’84) and Peggy (Stebbings) Valencourt (BPhEd ’80, BEd ’81) as well as Walter’s brother Eric Walter (BKin ’10) and sister, Amanda Walter (BA ’11) are all Brock graduates.
But the fairytale story doesn’t end here. Shortly after deciding to get married, Walter and Valencourt found out that they’re expecting their first child. Moreover, Valencourt recently quit a job as a business relations manager for a magazine to come back to Brock for her master’s degree and Walter recently started his own in-home personal training services, Infinite Personal Training. The couple couldn’t be happier.
“All of the things we talked about but never dreamed of are coming true,” said Walter. “As cheesy as it may sound, we really believe that things are going so well for us because we finally found where we’re supposed to be in life: with each other.”