FOR most married women, the day they are proposed to is unforgettable.
But not many have the moment their partner popped the question immortalised on Google Maps.
Yet when Chris Starke asked Karen Rolfe to marry him on her 50th birthday his 100ft wide proposal was filmed by the website’s cameras.
A heart outline containing the words “Karen, will you marry me?” was painted on the grass near SAS Software in Medmenham, where Mr Starke works.
But Mr Starke, 53, was “gobsmacked” when a colleague noticed his efforts online.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “The lettering only stayed there for two or three days so it was quite a short window of opportunity — they must have flown over the following day or maybe the day after.”
Mr Starke came up with the idea of proposing from a helicopter when he was researching birthday present ideas for his partner.
He said: “Fifty is quite a big one and I thought I’d take her up in a helicopter and then I thought while I’m up there, how about if I propose to her at the same time.
“She doesn’t regard me as a very romantic person so I thought I would go overboard.” Mr Starke had planned to write the message in their garden at their house in Red House Close, Lower Earley, but then spoke to the estate manager at work who suggested using the grounds there.
Two groundsmen spent a day-and-a-half each painting the words on the ground before cutting a heart-shaped outline in the grass around them.
On the day of Ms Rolfe’s birthday, the couple had lunch together at the Crown in Playhatch before driving to Wycombe Air Park for the helicopter flight.
Mr Starke said: “I told her that we were going to fly over our house and she thought that was her birthday present but on the way back the pilot, who was in on the whole thing, suggested going on a detour to see where I work.”
As the helicopter neared the site, Ms Rolfe spotted some of Mr Starke’s work colleagues outside twirling umbrellas.
“Then suddenly she saw the letters and she just went completely gooey,” said Mr Starke.
“She didn’t know what to say — words were coming out but not in any kind of order. She actually said ‘that is not for me is it?’ and kept looking at it, looking back at me and then looking at it again.”
When the couple arrived back at the helicopter base, they were greeted by their family, including their children Casey, 12, and Kaley, 10, Ms Rolfe’s children, Sean and Beki, and Mr Starke’s son, Chris.
They went for afternoon tea at Danesfield House Hotel and then to Ms Rolfe’s daughter’s house for a celebratory drink with all her friends.
Ms Rolfe, an office manager, said: “Chris said that we were doing something but that was all he said. I knew he was up to something because he had to make a few phone calls.
“When we went up in the helicopter I thought that was the big surprise but to be told to look down and see the proposal was unbelievable. He did a fantastic job.” The couple will get married on Ms Rolfe’s birthday in May next year, exactly a year to the day after the proposal.
Mr Starke said he was pleased that the memory of the proposal was likely to stay online for years to come.
“They only update those maps every two or three years so it quite nice that it is going to be on there for a little while and should be up there until the wedding,” he said.
“It was something I could never have planned.”
Ms Rolfe added: “I had only just recovered from the shock of being taken up in a helicopter and proposed to, so to find it on Google Maps was quite amazing.”