T.J. Perleberg spent more than a decade working at Aissen Tree Farm.
So it was only fitting he chose the Wisconsin farm for one of the biggest moments of his life.
Perleberg surprised his girlfriend, Julia Schumacher, by getting down on one knee and proposing to her Nov. 24 at Aissen Tree Farm. She immediately said “Yes.”
Making the moment even more memorable was the fact Perleberg did it after driving overnight about 17 hours — immediately after working a 12-hour shift — from eastern Pennsylvania to the unincorporated community of Pilsen in rural Kewaunee County.
“I couldn’t wait to get there, I was thinking about the proposal the whole way there,” said Perleberg, 24. “I wanted to surprise her. But I also wanted to get there in time before her dad went to work so I could ask for her hand in marriage. I got lost on the way to Wisconsin so it took a little longer than I planned, but I made it.”
Schumacher, 21, of Green Bay said she’ll never forget the moment: “It felt like I was in a Hallmark movie.”
Perleberg’s roots run deep at Aissen Tree Farm. As a youngster, he rode the school bus with siblings Skyla and Garrit Aissen (children of tree farm owners Jeff and Tammy Aissen). He helped the Aissens at their tree farm from about the age of 8 until about the age of 19.
“It was always a great place to be,” Perleberg said. “I did everything from baling Christmas trees to hauling trees and helping make kissing balls. Then I worked my way into the fields with the trees. I did that all and I worked on an actual cattle farm at the same time too while going to school. I started milking cows with my dad at the age of 6.”
Perleberg said the relationship he forged with the Aissen family “was great. They’ve always treated me like family. They have always been really good to me. They taught me life lessons and the importance of hard work on the farm.”
So it was a no-brainer, Perleberg said, to propose to Schumacher at a place he holds near and dear to his heart.
“I’ve always loved Aissen Tree Farm — it’s gorgeous,” he said. “And Julia is huge into Christmas. It’s her favorite time of year. So I thought it would be cute to do it there. It worked out well for everyone.”
Since Perleberg is working in Pennsylvania as a drill rig operator, he planned the proposal with Julia’s family without her knowing.
“My aunt is a photographer, and she told me she wanted to go to Aissen Tree Farm because she was going to do some wedding pictures there and she wanted to use me for the practice photos,” Schumacher said.
Perleberg’s plan was to drive back to Wisconsin and surprise Schumacher the following weekend — but then he found out he was going to have a few days off from work a whole week earlier.
“So on Saturday (Nov. 23), I got up at 4 a.m. for work and worked the whole day, and when I got done at 4 or 5 o’clock I took a shower right away and fueled up my truck and hit the road for Wisconsin.
“I got lost for a little while, so it took me more than 17 hours to get there. I was nervous and had the jitters pretty good. But when you’re driving through the night you’re excited, and then when you get there it really hits you.”
Perleberg said he called Tammy Aissen early in the morning on Sunday as he closed to within a few hours of the tree farm to ask if he could propose there.
“We are so happy for him,” Aissen said. “He really has been like a family member, and we were excited to help out.”
While Schumacher was standing along a row of Christmas trees at the farm, Perleberg emerged from behind some nearby trees and surprised her.
“I didn’t even know he was home, so it was a big surprise to even see him,” Schumacher said. “I wasn’t expecting him to be back for a couple more months.
“At first, I thought he was just surprising me that he was home. And then he got down on his knee and I was in shock.
“I’ll never forget it. It was the perfect place and the perfect moment.”