Great Island Couples: Richard and Lorraine Clark

60 years and counting.

Lorraine and Richard Clark celebrated 60 years of marriage by renewing their vows. Their dog, C.J., helped them celebrate. — Michael Cummo

Sixty years after 17-year-olds Richard Houlding Clark Jr. and Lorraine Beatrice Beaucaire were married at Grace Church in Vineyard Haven, the couple renewed their vows on July 18, surrounded by nearly 100 family and friends at a lavish anniversary party thrown by their children.

No longer the smitten and nervous teenagers who stood at the altar on Dec. 18, 1954, the Clarks have a lifetime of married life’s ups and downs behind them. But they are still as much in love as ever.

Their son Tim and his wife Dori hosted the festivities under a tent on their Oak Bluffs lawn. The Clarks’ three other children, grandchildren, and extended family pitched in to create the event, featuring a sumptuous buffet, ornate strawberry wedding cake, dancing, and socializing.

The Rev. Brian Murdoch of Grace Church called the couple front and center to repeat their promises to love and to cherish, then blessed their long union. Tim delivered a moving tribute to his parents as guests raised their glasses in a toast.

Lorraine and Richard’s relationship goes back well before their teen dating days.

“They told us we were in playpens together,” revealed Ms. Clark with a chuckle, as they sat on the deck of their Vineyard Haven home and reflected on their long, dynamic, and strong relationship.

The two grew up in Vineyard Haven. Their families were friends, and both their fathers worked for the Steamship Authority. They attended Tisbury School and Tisbury High School together. Around age 15, playdates changed to real dates, and they become boyfriend and girlfriend.

As they answered questions — Lorraine vivacious and bubbling with ideas, Richard reserved and thoughtful, choosing his words carefully — it was easy to see the familiarity, admiration, and easy, warm affection that is the essence of their marriage.

“We got along,” said Richard.

“We liked each other,” added Lorraine.

“You were handsome then,” she told her husband, who smiled and looked a little embarrassed.

In 1950s Vineyard Haven, dating was casual. Hanging out together, going to the movies.

“He had a bike, and I rode on the handlebars,” recalled Lorraine.

By 17 and still in high school, they decided to marry. Though raised Catholic, Lorraine had visited Grace Episcopal Church with a friend and liked it. On Dec. 18, 1954, the young bride and groom stood before the Rev. Tom Lehman, with Richard’s brother Bob and Lorraine’s friend Pat Silva as attendants. They exchanged vows before a few dozen guests, then celebrated with a reception at the Clark home. After a honeymoon weekend at the Parker House Hotel in Boston, they returned to the Vineyard to begin their married life.

After living with Richard’s family briefly, they moved to a tiny house on Main Street. Babies started arriving, scarcely more than a year apart: Richard E., Pam, and Dale.

Richard worked long hours at Brickman’s to support his new family, his role expanding from bike repair to manager over time. He supplemented his income with construction jobs. Lorraine was a full-time mom.

“I always had the neighbors too,” she said. “My house was the house everybody came to.”

Then tragedy struck for the 20-year-old couple. In 1958, their baby son Dale died suddenly in his crib. Lorraine’s father, Ovila Edmund Beaucaire, had passed away only six weeks before their wedding. Not long after Dale’s death, Richard’s father, Richard Clark Sr., died.

“Going through death is hard,” reflected Lorraine. “We were only kids. When you’re 20 years old, you have a 1-year-old and a 2-year-old, then your 3-month-old dies during the night, it’s a shock and it’s sad. And you never, ever in your life forget it.

“We were supportive of each other. That’s all you can do. Richard was supportive. I’d call Richard if I needed him, and he’d come right home.”

The couple got through the dark time and went on with their busy life, Richard working, Lorraine taking care of the children. Eleven months after they lost Dale, the Clarks welcomed a baby girl, Joy, in January, 1959. Then Tim was born. He arrived on February 14, 1960, two years to the day after Dale had died, at exact same time Lorraine had discovered her baby not breathing in his crib, and shared the older boy’s exact birth weight.

Ms. Clark had a strong sense that God was working in her life. “I knew there was a God,” she said. “I had been given a gift, another child.”

Lorraine became a faithful member of the friendly little Episcopal church at William Street and Woodlawn Avenue. Soon she was bringing her four young children every week and teaching Sunday school.

When Timmy was 2, in 1962, the Clarks bought their first home, the comfortable single-story house with the spacious, meticulously landscaped yard where they live today. Life was packed.

“We were a normal family,” Lorraine said. “We did a lot of stuff.”

On Sundays the family piled into the car and headed to Giordano’s or the Flying Horses. Lorraine would trek to the harbor with her own and the neighbor kids, to the beach at Bayside, now the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club. Edgartown fireworks and the Agricultural Fair were highlights. Lorraine led Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, 4-H. The children got paper routes.

Richard formed Clark, Leland, and Clark with his brother Bob and friend Les Leland. They built cottages off Franklin Street for summer rental. Lorraine and the children joined the renters around the pool and made lifelong friends.

“It was fun,” she remembered.

Both Clarks have long been active in community life. Richard was a member of the Tisbury Fire Department for 46 years, including 23 years as Tisbury fire chief, retiring at 65.

Lorraine volunteered at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, then worked in Registration, where she continues today on a per-diem basis.

Lorraine calls Grace Church her second home. She arranges flowers, prepares the altar, turns out lobster rolls, and serves food at community meals. She was passionately involved in Red Stocking for decades, co-chairing with Joan Merry, then Kerry Alley.

The Clarks recounted good times they’ve shared from cruises, land tours, and Florida vacations, to their children’s marriages and the arrival of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Both were thrilled by the anniversary party.

“The fact the kids cared enough to do it was the best part,” said Richard.

Is there a secret to their success? A key to having a happy marriage that can thrive for 60 years of better, worse, richer, poorer?

“It’s a lot of work. You have to work at it. If you get mad at each other, you can’t let it eat away at you,” said Lorraine. “You have to ask yourself, Do you want to be there or don’t you? I did, and I did, and I do. So does he. I wouldn’t want to be with anybody else. I don’t remember saying to him, ‘You can’t do that,’ or him saying, ‘You can’t do that.’ We don’t do that.

“We both have good senses of humor,” concludes Lorraine, beginning to laugh as Richard joins in, illustrating her point.

“I married the right person,” said Richard, summing it up.

What are the good things in their life, after all these years?

“Being happy, healthy, married to the right person, seeing your kids and grandchildren growing up to be successful,” said Richard.

“We have a good family,” said Lorraine. “It’s amazing to me that we were so young, and we raised such a good family. They all grew up to be good people.

“Richard is probably the smartest man I’ve ever met in my life,” she added. “As you grow old together, things get easier. You get more comfortable with each other. It’s a blessing that we’re healthy, and we’re still working, both of us,” said Lorraine.

“And it’s fun to have a good dog in the house,” she added with a hearty laugh, scooping up their furry shih tzu/bichon, C.J., who bounded onto the deck, as Richard looked at them both with a loving, indulgent smile.