By CANDY DENOUDEN, The Mitchell Daily Republic
KENNEBEC — Jenny Longville didn’t expect to get engaged for a while.
So when her boyfriend, Lance Engel, proposed during a mid-December trip to the Black Hills, Longville was surprised. Still — she said yes.
“My mom cried for two weeks,” Longville added with a smile.
Engel told Longville to get dressed up so the couple could go look at Christmas lights in Deadwood. It helped Engel honor Longville’s only proposal stipulation: She wanted to look nice.
“That was the only thing I had to work around,” Engel said with a laugh.
Longville, 26, and Engel, 29, met on New Year’s Eve last year, when Engel’s brother’s band played in Presho. They hit it off, and began dating soon after. Engel, of Winner, and Longville, of Kennebec, have made their long-distance relationship work. In the last few months, the couple and their families have banded together to support Longville, who was diagnosed with cancer in October.
Today is Valentine’s Day, a day to celebrate love and romance in all its forms. As Longville and Engel sat next to each other recently in Longville’s home in Kennebec, where she lives with her parents, Todd and Teresa, they described how they met, and how they decided that nothing — not even a Stage 3 colon cancer diagnosis — was worth postponing their engagement.
“Ever since we met, it’s just been easy with her,” Engel said. “I don’t really see the cancer changing any of that.”
To Engel, the diagnosis provided all the more incentive to propose. He was at the doctor’s office when Longville first learned she might have colon cancer. Doctors wanted to wait on test results to be sure before diagnosing her. It was a shock, and Engel felt helpless — but not deterred.
“I knew I was going to find a ring for her, even before the cancer,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons I wanted to show her I was in it for the long haul.”
Right from the start, Longville said Engel has been a strong support system for her. Any time she had doubts or concerns, Engel was there.
“He looked at me and said, ‘We’re going to get it,’ ” Longville said. “We decided we’re not going to think anything negative.”
They’ve maintained that positive focus, and try to juggle, work, wedding planning and Longville’s treatments. They have an Aug. 22 date set for the wedding, which will be in Winner. Longville, a Kennebec native and Dakota Wesleyan University graduate, said she plans to move to Winner once they are married, but will still work in Kennebec. She is excited for her first appointment to look at wedding dresses on Feb. 21.
Engel joked he was looking forward to the reception, but the part he’s most looking forward to?
“Im excited to say ‘I do,’ ” Engel said.
“Good answer,” Longville responded with a laugh.
Teresa, who jokingly described Engel as her “favorite child,” said she knew from the first time she met Engel that he was “the one” for her daughter.
“I’ve never seen her act that way,” she said.
Engel and Longville, often laughing and teasing, agree they “just clicked” from the start. They like to sing together, often in the car, watch movies, and Engel is trying to convert Longville into a football fan.
“We like to watch the Cowboys,” Engel said, which elicited a laugh from Longville.
“You like to watch the Cowboys,” she responded, but added: “It doesn’t really matter what we do. As long as we’re together, we have fun.”
‘I’m still me’
Longville was diagnosed officially on Oct. 28, four days after the colonoscopy where doctors told her she might have cancer. She got the call while she was at Kennebec Elementary, part of the Lyman School District, where she teaches junior kindergarten.