Charlie and Tom Clark

A Do-over Based on Love and Respect

Charlie and TomCharlie & Tom Clark
A Do-over Based on Love and Respect

by NancyLee Honey Marsh    Photography by Christian Lee

“Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
—Ephesians 5:33

Statistics were against them. But who cares about numbers when love is in the equation? Tom and Charlie Clark first met when they were 8 years old. “Close friendships between relatives led to summer visits between Texas, where Charlie’s family lived, and Wyoming, where I resided. Otherwise, we may never have met,” Tom said. What the young children did not know was, even then, God had a plan for them.

On a recent moonlit evening I met with the Clarks in the boardroom of Hilton Head/Bluffton Chamber, where Charlie has enjoyed a 16-year position as VP of Communications. Tom thrives as Accounting Manager for The Greenery. Our conversation was lively, introspective and informative.

Tom and Charlie’s friendship grew strong as they did. They kept in touch through college and the work force. Tom, with an engineering degree, remained in Wyoming, while Charlie graduated with a degree in communications and joined an advertising agency in Los Angeles.

Ironically, Charlie and her family were invited to Tom’s wedding, which was subsequently cancelled. As a good friend would, Charlie remained to encourage Tom through the disappointment. “A few nights later, while we were talking and listening to the jukebox box, I kissed her for the first time,” admitted Tom. “I always tease her, saying it was on the rebound!”

“It was a lightening bolt!” declared Charlie. “I invited him out to Los Angeles.

 “She told me it was a free ticket. Later I discovered, she paid for it,” he chuckled.

“That was pretty much it,” Charlie glanced lovingly at Tom. “He proposed poolside in Los Angeles. I said yes, and gave him a high five! Six months later we were married in the stunning Frank Lloyd Wright Wayfarer’s Chapel, overlooking the Pacific Ocean at 7:32pm (sunset). It was perfect,” Charlie said.

Tom’s job transfer led them to Detroit for several years where, “We dove into faith, ignited by the amazing Kensington Community Church,” Charlie said. “I wrote the pastor this year to let him know the impact he had on our lives.”

A call for Tom to run the family business sent the couple back to Tom’ s roots in Laramie. Frequent visits to Hilton Head began the classic Lowcountry love affair, and in 2001, “We decided to relocate our family permanently to the Island. Once again, we could see God move,” said Charlie.

“Our home and business sold, jobs opened up, and all the pieces fell in place,” said Tom. “All our previous moves were job related,” he added. “This one was for the wonderful location we loved.”

By 2007, there were quiet rumblings in paradise. After 18 years of marriage, their phenomenally busy schedules were shaking their core. “We simply drifted apart. After much discussion, we separated. Not any one thing to pinpoint,” Charlie said.

“What are you doing? Everyone asked when we separated. They all thought we were a perfect couple!” Tom said. With the feelings of two boys, attending Hilton Head Christian Academy, to consider, the couple rented a mutual apartment where they all gathered, instead of shifting the boys from one household to another. Their strong bond remained and they even took the boys to D.C. together. However, in 2010 the couple worked out details and finalized their divorce.

“You never appreciate what you have until you lose it. It was eye opening,” declared Tom. “We obtained new perspective,” said Charlie. They looked at one another. “I thought I was giving Charlie what she needed, and she thought she was doing the same for me,” Tom said. “Not wanting to give up, we attended a class based on the book Love and Respect, taught by Joe and Shirley Newton, who became our mentors. We learned a woman wants to be loved more than anything, and a man must be respected. It’s all about grace, faith and forgiveness.” Charlie leaned toward Tom, “He knows me better than I know myself. With God’s guidance we learned to be honest with each other and communicate more fully. There is less pride and arguments.

The silver lining is we get a do-over,” she laughed. “Tom proposed in Bonefish. Really? I teased him. My answer is yes, only if you give me a high five!” “We told the boys they have the unique experience of attending their parent’s wedding,” laughed Tom. In a quiet ceremony in Cashiers, N.C., at 7:32pm (sunset) on July 8, 2016, they became one again vowing to fully love and respect one another forever. Fireworks lit the sky to confirm the significant event.


Up Close:

Proud Moments: Our boys, Cameron and Brennan, handled the divorce like champs. We asked Brennan to play a song at our wedding. He strummed All you Need is Love by the Beatles.
Defying statistics: One worldwide study showed only about 6 percent of couples remarry their same spouse after divorce.
Realization: On a recent family cruise, Charlie told Tom: “I am so happy, soooo happy. I never want to lose this!” He smiled, “You never did.”   
Confession: “My given name is Charlene, but was nicknamed Charlie since day one. Think they wanted a boy!”