John Nicotera, a Utica resident and teacher in Central New York, originally had plans to propose to his fiancée Erica Pendrak, who is also a teacher, on a trip to Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. Unfortunately, the pandemic forced him to cancel those plans and come up with a new idea.
“I was bummed that it was canceled,” Nicotera recalled. “Any plan I came up [with] just didn’t seem to compare to Crater Lake.”
But when Nicotera, an avid space junkie, soon learned that Comet Neowise — a long period comet that had been spotted earlier in March by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) — could be observed in his area, he knew it would be the perfect opportunity to pop the question. It would also be his one and only chance to propose amid a rare sighting: the comet passes by Earth just once every 6,800 years.
“We had other things going on during the week, and that was really the only night that worked for us,” he said. “At that point, I knew I needed the clouds to be away, the skies to be clear, and mother nature to be friendly to me.”
After Pendrak agreed to see the comet, Nicotera reached out to his friend and photographer Tim Leach for suggestions on where to observe it. The teacher’s original plan was to hop in a boat with Pendrak and watch the comet pass by from there, but, on the day of the big event, Nicotera forgot to bring his binoculars.
Luckily, Leach was able to help his friend out in more ways than one. The photographer offered to meet with Nicotera and Pendrak near McCauley Mountain and bring his camera to capture the moment the two would get engaged. As soon as Nicotera proposed to Pendrak, Leach took the shot.
“I just found the best middle ground in the time I had to shoot the photo,” Leach told Syracuse.com. “John and Erica had to be still for about seven seconds. You will notice that the photo is slightly out of focus, mostly due to the fact that it is nearly impossible for a person to be perfectly still for seven seconds, but it is the moment that counts.”
The photo, along with another one of the couple holding hands, was posted on Leach’s Instagram, where it has gotten more than 1,000 likes and over 100 comments.
According to Syracuse.com, Nicotera first introduced himself to Pendrak after she had posted something about basketball.
“We knew of each other,” he explained. “We both coach in the area and have some mutual friends. She posted something one day about basketball and I made a comment underneath it and the conversation kept going from there.”
Now, the two will have photos together they’ll never forget.
If you enjoyed this story, you might want to read about this woman who made her boyfriend “redo” his proposal.
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