MACEDONIA -- Lindsay Hatfield showed up at her parents' house in Macedonia just before Christmas thinking she'd receive something like matching pajamas for herself and her two siblings. Instead, she got a surprise wedding proposal from her boyfriend, Patrick Barrett, who was hiding in the back of a Macedonia fire truck that also delivered Santa Claus, played by Fire Capt. Brian Ripley.
"I was in total shock when I first saw Patrick," she said. "Then when he went down on one knee, I realized just what was going on."
The fire truck arrived in the evening of Dec. 23, supposedly to deliver presents to Hatfield and her family members. That's when Barrett appeared, ready to pop the question.
The couple, graduates of Nordonia High School, grew up in Macedonia and live in Greenwood Village in Sagamore Hills Township.
Barrett said the idea has been on his mind "for a few years."
"We both grew up with the tradition of Santa on a fire truck in Macedonia," he said. "I knew if I proposed, it would have something to do with Christmas. I got permission from her dad to marry her, and I gave the fire department a call to see if they could do this kind of thing. They could."
Barrett said Ripley was "super helpful in making it happen."
Barrett, 29, initially called the city last June about setting it up.
"We said we'd figure something out," Ripley said. "As it got closer, he got more nervous."
Barrett admitted he was nervous.
"Absolutely," he said. "I probably appeared pretty nervous when I arrived at the fire station that night. I must have looked pretty stiff. The firefighters were cracking jokes. Looking back, it was probably pretty funny."
When the fire truck pulled up to the Hatfield's Skyland Drive home, Ripley said everybody there knew about the surprise -- except Lindsay. That included her parents, Rocky and Colleen Hatfield, older brother Cory and his wife, Megan, of Fairlawn, and younger sister Amanda, of Macedonia, and her boyfriend, Jesse Schossler, of Stow.
First, Santa Ripley handed out gifts to Lindsay's two siblings.
"Then I said I didn't have one for Lindsay," he said. "I went back to the truck and opened the door. Patrick was in the back where the firefighters sit. He was able to hide in there until it was time to get out."
Barrett said they got Hatfield, 26, to believe her mother had a surprise for her and her siblings, and they had to be there that specific night.
"I told Lindsay I had some buddies in town for the holidays, so I would be busy that night," he said. "Then after she left, I drove to the fire station to hop on the truck with Brian."
Ripley, who has played Santa plenty of times before for the city's Santa delivery program, said he was able to see Hatfield's reaction the whole time.
"Lindsay had no idea what was going on," he said. "She was absolutely surprised. She knew they'd be getting engaged, but did not suspect it would be that night."
Hatfield said it was a logical scenario.
"I thought my mom had something like matching pajamas for us," she said. "It seemed pretty normal. It seemed like she'd give us gifts at the same time."
Hatfield said the fire truck brought back memories.
"As a kid, Santa on the fire truck is one of my biggest memories," she said. "Seeing Santa coming down the street, hearing the sirens, driving down Route 82 with different decorations on the poles, I recall how magical that felt."
Hatfield said she has known her fianc for nearly six years. Barrett moved to Columbus to live with his father, William, while Hatfield was attending The Ohio State University, and they met through mutual friends. His mother, Patricia Kellerman, still lives in Macedonia.
Barrett is a student at the Cleveland Institute of Art, majoring in graphic design. He is scheduled to graduate in May. Hatfield writes sales proposals for a software company. The couple plan to marry later this year.
Ripley, who did not know the couple beforehand, said it was "cool to be able to help out."
"It was unique to share in somebody's big moment," he said.
Barrett said he was "very surprised it went off without a hitch."
"It was exciting," he said. "It made the holidays extra magical. I told the story about 30 times that weekend."
Hatfield said it went "flawlessly."
"I was waiting for a hiccup, but somehow it went perfectly," she said.
Afterward, they drove to other relatives' houses in the area to surprise them.
"It's cool that it all worked out so well," Hatfield said. "We wouldn't change a thing."
Mike Lesko: 330-541-9432