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Lakefill rocks recall memories, proposals of past students

Olivia Wainhouse

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Photos by Matt Spector and Elise Foley. Created by Sean Collins Walsh

The rocks lining the Lakefill tell indelible stories – some have whimsical caricatures, others feature ornate designs and short messages. They’re the unofficial record of the lives and memories of those who pass through Northwestern. As students run along the Lakefill, admire the Chicago skyline or revel in Dillo Day festivities, the rocks are the backdrop.

“No matter where our travels take us, may we always remember the place we once called home and the ways in which we grew here. I love you. JAR ’07. HLZ ’06.”

The messages range from love notes – “To my lady in red. Always & Forever. My best friend. Love you. – KD” – to inside jokes – “Alex, You are more radiant than Tungsten” – to marriage proposals.

Michael Kozminski, a Northwestern ’07 alumnus, painted a rock “Laura will you marry me? MK 4-15-2007” to propose to his girlfriend.

“I was actually thinking of a lot of different ideas to do in Chicago or somewhere on the campus at Northwestern, but I saw other rocks painted and I thought it’d be an interesting idea,” Kozminski. “I went out and bought the paint from a hardware store in downtown Evanston.”

Kozminski said he painted the rock after spring break of senior year because he wanted to propose to his girlfriend on her birthday, April 15th. He had a week to paint the rock and the cold Chicago weather and occasional snow made the task a challenge, he said.

“Unfortunately, that week was really cold and it even snowed a few times,” he said. “While it was snowing, Lake Michigan was pretty choppy. A few times the paint got washed off by the water, so there are probably two or three coats on there.”

Kozminski told his girlfriend they were going out to an early dinner, so there would be ample sunlight for when he proposed.

“So we walked up to North Campus and were walking along the lake,” he said. “I took her to the rock and asked her to look toward me and then I asked her to turn around to see the rock.”

“She was definitely surprised,” Kozminski said. “She was in shock when she saw the rock – she had this huge smile on her face. And then she said yes…all the painting in the snow was worth it.”

Sean Wesslund, Communication ’08 alumnus, also painted his marriage proposal on a rock on the Lakefill.

“I got the idea to paint the rock because I used to jog past all of the painted rocks on the Lakefill,” Wesslund wrote in an e-mail. “I thought that it was so cool to have a tangible memory of the day that one could come back and visit possibly for years.”

Wesslund said he asked his friend to paint the rock because he was out of town, so he could propose to Laura when he returned.

“We were theater majors so we were going to see a show in the city and then we came back to walk around the Lakefill, which we did periodically during our time at Northwestern and after. When I got there I actually had to find the rock that my friend had painted…we walked over to it, I knelt down and didn’t say anything.”

Laura accepted the proposal.

“It was silent for a period of time and then she said ‘absolutely, of course,'” he said. “Then we hung out there and kind of giggled for a while and looked at it … we looked out over toward the city and sat on the bench there.”

Jake Taylor, McCormick ’01 alumnus, used a picnic lunch to bring his bride-to-be out to the Lakefill.

“She found a rock that would be good to sit on,” he said “I said ‘no, let’s go a little further north.'”

A few feet away, Taylor said he painted a rock with “will you marry me?” in big letters.

“She had walked ahead of me,” he said. “I had painted a rock facing the Chicago skyline, then I got down on one knee…”

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