HACKENSACK, Minn. — A Mankato man chose his family's Hackensack vacation property as the perfect place to ask his brother to be his best man, prompting the creation of a video that was destined to go viral.
"I'm not super shocked it went viral," Will Clausen said. "My buddy told me it would go viral. At the same time to see it go viral was something else."
For the last seven or so years, Will and Henry Joe Clausen's family has had a cabin on Ten Mile Lake near Hackensack.
"We love it and call it the Clausen Shire, from 'The Lord of the Rings,' because it's kind of like our peaceful dwelling," Will said. "We like to think of it that way. It's a special place for our family."
On July 3, while staying on Ten Mile Lake, Will used the idyllic setting to propose to his fiance.
"I brought her to our favorite bay on the lake in our boat," Will said. "I spilled my guts to her in the bay there and there were fireworks and the stars were out and everything."
It's no surprise then, that he chose the lake property as the place to ask his brother to be his best man. His brother is an avid metal detectorist, so he decided to use that hobby to surprise Henry Joe on Aug. 14, only days after Henry Joe's Aug. 12 birthday.
"Metal detecting, especially at the cabin, is one of his favorite hobbies," Will said. "I wanted to find a way to incorporate that into the best man proposal. It just came naturally. I had this idea a while back for how I was initially going to propose to my fiance, but I just kept it in my back pocket for Henry."
In the past, Henry Joe has found old tools on the family property, along with the usual soda tabs and junk, but Will had planned the find of a lifetime when he buried a bottle at the family cabin with a note inside that read, "Henry Joe, you are already the best bro and also the best friend. So will you please say yes to be my best man? Love Will."
Even before he read the note, Henry Joe knew something was up and asked Will if he had buried the note there. By now everyone has likely seen Henry Joe's answer, leaping onto Will with a hug.
Will shared the video online and it was retweeted by a popular Twitter profile under Rex Chapman. Will received requests right away from companies that wanted to buy exclusive rights to the video, but he turned them down, instead opting to share the video freely.
As a result, it's been seen all over social media and television. The video was shared by actress Gabrielle Union, actor Carl Weathers and sports analyst and former Vikings player Randy Moss. It was also picked up by SportsCenter, ESPN, "Good Morning America," "Entertainment Tonight," Fox News and others. The video has had more than 10 million views since it went online.
"It's been absolutely nuts," Will said. "It's been very humbling and we're very happy to share the memory and the experience with the rest of the world."
Will says he thinks the video went viral because of Henry Joe.
"It was a genuine moment that captured both our real emotions and reactions," Will said. "Henry is such a special guy that anyone who meets him loves him."
As the message in the bottle said, the brothers have always been best friends and that relationship has helped shape important parts of their lives. Henry Joe has Down syndrome, but is very high functioning. His relationship with his brother may have had something to do with Will's choice in life partners as well, because his fiance, AJ, is a special education teacher. Will said that was part of what drew him to her initially.
"He is a role model of mine," Will said of his brother. "But also my biggest fan and advocate."
The trio is beyond excited to start preparing for the July 17, 2021, wedding, which Will said will also be in Hackensack.