NORWAY — Not every marriage proposal involves hammers, saws and a full work crew.

But that’s how John Tester rolls.

When Tester popped the question to Sarah Martin on St. Patrick’s Day, he did it at the site of their future home, a house she has been building since January as part of a self-help homeownership program.

Sarah, a 31-year-old mother of two girls, thought she was just showing up for another day of building, but Tester, 38, had other things in mind. He had invited his son and Martin’s two daughters to the job site, for one thing. The regular work crew of more than half a dozen people was already on site.

“I let everybody in the group know that I was going to propose,” Tester said. “They all knew it was going to happen, but Sarah didn’t have a clue.”

When the time came, the saws fell silent and the hammering ceased. The group gathered to watch what was about to transpire.

“I got down on one knee,” Tester said. “I had written down what I wanted to say on my phone. I read that to her.”

“It was a total surprise to me,” Martin said. “It made the proposal extra special with everyone present — and even better to do it in the home he and I will share together for the rest of our lives.”

She said yes, by the way, and the workers broke into applause after hearing Tester’s words of love and devotion.

“One of the gentlemen in the group said, ‘You had me almost crying. I was getting teary-eyed,'” Tester recalled. “Everybody was all emotional and teary and ecstatic.”

Including Martin, who said it was “love at first sight” when the pair started dating in 2015.

Martin, of Norway, has always wanted her own home. With that in mind, she applied to Community Concepts’ Self-Help Homeownership Program in South Paris and was approved for a USDA-backed mortgage loan if she guaranteed to put in 120 hours per month as “sweat equity.”

She started her home-building project in January with help from Tester. He knew of her yearlong commitment to the homeownership program, Martin said, and although he had no obligation to help, he’s been there for every work session, nailing down shingles and raising rafters.

When will they get married?

“Not until after we move into the house,” Tester said. “We want to make sure that we have all our ducks in a row.”

Martin estimated that may happen in January. The couple plans to have one more child after they move into the house that love built.

“He has been there by my side for the whole thing,” Martin said, “and we are so excited to move into our new home we both built together and make so many memories.”

Have a wedding story for Tying the Knot? Contact Lindsay Tice at [email protected] or 207-689-2854.


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