Lake Nona residents Dick and Nadine Clark reflect on six decades as husband and wife.
When Nadine saw Air Force Corporal Dick Clark walking to his second job at the scooter shop down the street, she decided to offer him a glass of water. Her mother warned her that he was going with the girl next door, but that didn’t deter 15-year-old Nadine. She remembers it vividly. “I felt the Spirit telling me he was the man I was going to marry,” she says. “I even wrote in on my calendar.”
For Dick the encounter was simple. “It was hotter than blue blazes that summer in Biloxi and here was this long-legged lady offering a drink,” he says. “Of course I accepted.”
Nadine invited Dick to her church’s youth group events, where they got to know each other. Dick finished radio operator school that July and was transferred to Omaha. Dick and Nadine continued their courtship by exchanging letters, and in December Dick wrote to ask if Nadine would like an engagement ring or a wedding ring. They were married on December 30, 1950 — the bride at the ripe-old age of 15 and a half, the groom four years her senior.
Nadine says, “We’d only really known each other for a few months. Everyone thought that we would never last, but here we are 65 years later!”
The Early Years
Times were lean for the newlyweds, as Dick’s paycheck was only $125 a month with half going to pay rent. Nadine carefully planned out their food budget, leaving just enough for a monthly movie night. But the lack of resources only brought them closer. “We were in love and enjoyed doing things together,” she says. “We walked a lot, went to the park we lived across the street from, and played Canasta with friends.”
The Clarks welcomed their oldest son, David, two months before their first anniversary. Their addition meant they needed to relocate — the first numerous moves they have made together. Dick and Nadine might be rolling stones, but they always make it a point to share their home and lives with those around them.
In 1952, Dick was deployed to Okinawa, Japan, to work communications during the Korean War. Although he suspected that Nadine was pregnant when he got his orders, his superiors didn’t believe him. Nadine and their son went to live with Dick’s family in Oregon, and their second son, Kenneth, was born that November.
Nadine agrees that it was one of the toughest times in their marriage. “You look back on it and think, ‘How did I do that?’” she says. “But the Lord was so faithful to carry us through it. We never thought of giving up. It was just part of the journey.”
Dick and Nadine were reunited on New Year’s Day 1953.
A New Adventure
Over the course of the next 15 years, the couple continued to grow their life together. When Dick finished his term of service with the Air Force, he enrolled in college through the GI bill to study electronics. The couple’s daughter, Deanne, was born in 1963. In 1972 their life was set in a totally unexpected direction when a translator from Wycliffe Bible Translators, an organization that translates the Bible into minority languages, spoke at their church.
The translator shared how all communications with those serving in the Peruvian jungle was by radio. Something clicked in Dick’s mind. He turned to Nadine and said, “That’s what God wants us to do.”
At first Nadine wasn’t so sure about this sudden call, but now she can see that God uniquely prepared Dick for this work, starting with the Air Force assigning him to communications, even though he had requested auto mechanics, up through the job in the electronics department at University of California that he left to join Wycliffe.
Peru and Beyond
After studying Spanish in Lima, Dick, Nadine and Deanne moved to their new village home in 1973. During Dick’s first day on the job he helped save a life by making radio contact between a base doctor and the flustered missionary he talked through removing a fish hook from the boy’s throat.
Not long after, Wycliffe asked the Clarks to move back to Lima to run the guesthouse there. It was tough to leave the radio ministry that Dick loved, but the new role was a perfect fit for Nadine’s gift of hospitality. The campus included 38 guest rooms, staff quarters and a dining room, keeping the Clarks busy for nine years. They left Peru for health reasons in 1998 and became part of the team that relocated Wycliffe’s headquarters to Orlando.
Nadine now serves as Wycliffe’s front desk representative. From her station in the lobby she welcomes each person with a warm greeting and, often, a hug. The Clark’s home is a golf cart ride away from the Lake Nona headquarters, so she’s able to have lunch with Dick, who retired last year. The couple continues to open their home, hosting a weekly dinner and game night for long-time friends and new acquaintances.
65th Anniversary Reflections
Looking back over their marriage and family, which now includes five grandchildren and one great-grandchild, Dick and Nadine attribute their success to focusing on God and each other. “For us, it was a lifetime commitment,” Nadine says. “It’s not that there weren’t problems, but we worked through those. The Bible says, ‘Leave, cleave and become one.’ It takes a lifetime to get to know your spouse; you’re becoming one all the time. We’ve done it by praying together and playing together. We have such wonderful memories.”