Just an old-fashioned love story

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Sometimes you need a happy Christmas love story, and the tale of Michelle Pirzadeh and Raudel “Rowdy” Madera just so happens to fit the bill.

They call theirs a modern take on an old-time love story; he's a soldier, she's a nurse. They met online three years ago, while Madera, 27, was stationed in Iraq. The dating site narrowed his choices down to three women; he says Pirzadeh was the first one he called.

“Then he called me every day at 7 p.m. for two months,” said 25-year-old Pirzadeh, adding that she's normally quite shy. “I could tell he was genuine. … I felt comfortable with him, and I felt like I could share stories with him.”

By the time they met in person, the very day he was back on American soil, they say it was like they'd always known each other.

“When I first saw her, I hugged her twice because I didn't know what else to do,” he said.

Flash forward to Dec. 21, 2012 — the last day of the Mayan calendar.

“We both said to each other that today might be the end of the world, but it's the beginning of ours,” said Madera.

By the time he suggested a Christmas-y outing to the Trail of Lights at Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield, he had already asked Pirzadeh's parents for their blessing.

“That's always how I had imagined it,” she said.

He led her to a quiet bench amid the twinkling lights. Then he took a small box out of his pocket, and she had an inkling what might be about to happen. She opened the box to find a diamond … necklace.

“I was totally bummed,” she laughed.

Then he took another small box from his other pocket, and got down on his knee in the frozen snow.

“I'd never seen a girl cry so much,” he said.

“I had so many tears in my eyes that I couldn't see the ring,” she said. “I remember him asking me, but I was so overwhelmed that I don't remember if I said yes. I hope I did.”

“She did,” said Madera.

At this point in the telling of the story, strangers in Starbucks were stopping to listen.

“I'm totally eavesdropping,” admitted Eddy Kovacevich. He said when his longtime girlfriend asked why they weren't engaged yet, he just pulled into Southwest Plaza and bought her a ring, no fanfare about it.

Pirzadeh read recently that December, the end of the year, is the most common month to get engaged.

“It's like you chose this person to have a new beginning with,” she said.

For others taking the plunge this holiday season, Madera has some advice.

“Just don't stop showing her that you love her and you want her to be there for every step of the way,” he said.