Kimberly Lombardo is always interested in learning how couples connected.
For instance, one couple she knows began as rivals in a local softball league. She accidentally hit him in the face with a softball and broke his nose. She took him to the emergency room and then to dinner.
Kimberly allowed that she entered Royer’s Flowers & Gifts’ love story contest because, “I always thought it was interesting how we met.” But what really intrigued us was how she and her husband, Christopher, became engaged.
We’ll get to that in a bit, but not before we congratulate Kimberly for being our contest winner. She will receive three monthly flower deliveries (valued at $29.99 per month), courtesy of Royer’s new subscription program.
‘A common goal’
Kimberly, a graduate of Lock Haven University, moved to the York area after teaching English as a second language at a high school in Japan. She met Christopher in 2002 when they both worked at the West Manchester Mall, she in customer service, he in security.
Both 24 at the time, Kimberly and Christopher knew each other casually. He would pop into the mall office, or they would “talk randomly” if they ran into one another at a mall event.
Christopher, who had never been on an airplane, was planning an 18-hour flight to Tokyo to attend a Japanese anime convention. Kimberly, who was dating someone at the time, offered to share her Japanese-English dictionary, train schedules and maps from her time in Japan.
“We just started talking,” Kimberly said, and realized that they had a lot in common. From their first date over breakfast on Christmas Eve, “We just started doing and hanging out more.”
Kimberly said she knew she was in love with Christopher when she realized that he was someone with lots of potential and she wanted to help him achieve it. His trip to Japan, she suggested to Christopher, wasn’t just about the convention but also an opportunity to travel and learn about another culture. She suggested he consider a career in the military.
They were, she said, “Kind of working together toward a common goal.”
In 2004, Kimberly began volunteering as an usher at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center in York, and Christopher joined the Air Force Reserves. They had been dating for three years by late 2006, when it appeared that Christopher could be deployed to Iraq.
They didn’t want to date forever, and they didn’t want to move in together without being married. They wanted to buy a house and knew it would be an easier process if they were married.
Proposal with three red roses
Against that backdrop, Christopher hatched a plan to propose to Kimberly on a grand stage, namely that of the Strand-Capitol during an early December performance of “The Nutcracker.”
“A lot of misdirection, lies and secrets” is how Christopher described the process of coordinating with the Strand-Capitol and producers of the “Nutcracker” while keeping details from Kimberly.
The couple had tickets to see “Nutcracker,” but Christopher concocted a story about winning backstage passes to meet the cast and crew. Between the end of the first act and intermission, a security guard led them backstage.
Christopher grabbed Kimberly’s hand. Instead of making their way to the cast and crew, however, he led her through the curtains and onto the stage.
Nervous and “sweating bullets,” beneath his military “dress blues,” Christopher noted to the audience of some 900 people that he and Kimberly had been together for three years. He presented her with three red roses, got down on one knee and asked Kimberly to marry him.
She nodded in the affirmative.
“She was speechless,” Christopher said. “Her brain just locked up, just froze.”
The audience gasped, clapped, stood and cheered. A reporter from the York Daily Record newspaper, clued in by the Strand-Capitol, was on hand to chronicle the moment.
The Lombardos married on Oct. 18, 2007 in Las Vegas in advance of Christopher’s 2008 deployment to Iraq. (He also would deploy to Afghanistan in 2011 and 2017.)
They have three children: Steven, 7; Paige, 5; and Kelly, 3. Kimberly stays home with the kids while Christopher, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Penn State Harrisburg in 2014, is an IT specialist at the Defense Logistics Agency in New Cumberland.
And all these years later, Kimberly and Christopher still try to honor how their relationship began by having breakfast together on Christmas Eve.