Clay and Ella cherish a love story few can match.
These two carefree children, who once built sand castles together side-by-side, became man and wife — more than fifty years later!
How did this real-life romance come to life? Ella, now a radiant bride at 64, tells the story.
“We actually met when we were six years old in a playground where my aunt lived,” Ella said. “I was staying with her while my mom was in the hospital. Clay was building sand castles in a sand box and he asked me if I wanted to help. We played together for several days until I returned home.
“When we were 12, our parents moved into the same building where we lived until I graduated from high school. We attended junior high school and high school together. Clay was my 7th-grade crush.”
But Clay and Ella were on different paths in life, and rarely did they intersect, although they often thought of each other with affection.
Flash forward 50 years. Clay, a retired science teacher, life guard and swim instructor, lived in New York City. Ella, an associate professor of managerial science at the Tuck School of Business, also was an author and organizational consultant. She lived in Charlotte, he in New York, but a lifetime of shared memories led Clay and Ella to a new phase in their lives: dating as a long-distance couple.
The two planned a to celebrate Ella’s 63rd birthday together in New York City on Aug. 22, 2012.
“We had planned a two-day event, including seeing ‘The Book of Mormon,’ a dinner cruise around Manhattan island and dining at our favorite restaurants. We met at the Ritz-Carlton in Battery Park. Clay came to the room around noon with a dozen white and red roses. He took my hand, got down on one knee and proposed. It was beautiful!
“Along with the roses, he brought me a beautiful necklace of two jumping dolphins… one large and one small, cradling each other in pave diamonds. My mother’s engagement ring became my engagement ring, for sentimental reasons, and because I simply love it.”
They united in the sacred bond of matrimony at The Park Church in Charlotte.
“Our wedding ceremony was highly spiritual and held and in a beautiful sanctuary,” Ella said. “Our Pastor, Bishop Claude Alexander did a short sermon on the commitment of marriage, making our union truly God-centered. We had 10 children in our wedding, ages two to 13. They were so beautiful! Also, our family and friends came from near and far to celebrate with us. It was the very best wedding ceremony,” Ella said.
An amazing surprise for the guests was Howard Hewett, a famous music star. Instead of an instrumental bridal procession, Ella was serenaded down the aisle by this Top 40 star known for his soul, soft rock and gospel music.
“Howard Hewett sang me down the aisle with the song ‘Somebody’s Watchin’ Over Me,’ a song which has a very special meaning for me,” Ella said. “He was our WOW factor! Everyone was shocked. We were very blessed to have him sing at our wedding and then do a 40-minute show at our reception. He took pictures with our guests and really gave a spectacular performance.”
In addition to her dream wedding, Ella also has a glorious honeymoon in her future.
“We are going to South Africa in December for three weeks for a late honeymoon!”
Photographers: Chuck Eaton and Troy Tomlinson
Cake: Elizabeth House
Wedding and Bridesmaid Dresses: Amsale
Shoes: Jimmy Choo
Headpiece Designer: Hats by Suzanne- NYC
Minister: Bishop Claude Alexander, University Park Baptist Church
Reception Location:Cake: The Main Event
Transportation: Rose Limousine Charlotte
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