But while organizing legal paperwork dealing with their deaths, the couple discovered their marriage was never legal.
They made the discovery after reading a story in The Wall Street Journal that said without a marriage license, one spouse could not collect the other’s Social Security benefits.
So the couple tried to get a copy of their marriage certificate sent to their Redlands home.
They sent $20 to the San Mateo County Hall of Records to retrieve it, but there was no record of their Aug. 29, 1964, ceremony.
“They went back to the year 1956, but no record of our marriage could be found,” Bob Clark said. “So we called the church we were married in and asked if they had a copy. They said, ‘Oh, yes, we have a copy.’ So we called the (records office) back and asked if we could record it now.”‘
Marriage certificates have to be filed within two years of the ceremony, the Clarks learned, and they would now have to register their wedding in San Bernardino County to make their marriage legal.
So the Clarks set out to do just that.
But to do so, they needed two witnesses who were at their 1964 wedding. And with Thanksgiving within a week of the discovery, that was no problem — several family members who were at the ceremony were coming to town.
With only days to prepare, the Clarks asked Norma’s sister, Deanna Silvestri, and her brother, Bill Thrall, to be their new witnesses. The two were Norma’s maid of honor and the couple’s junior usher at the original wedding.
The Clarks had a 10 a.m. appointment on Nov. 21 to file their certificate at the county Hall of Records on San Bernardino’s Hospitality Lane.
And they came prepared.
“I got her a nice bouquet, and it was just a hoot,” Bob said. “There were about 35 people there who were asking us why we were there. We told them that we’ve been married…and we brought along a book of all our pictures and showed them (off).”
After the filing was finished, making the marriage legal, one man in the crowd called out to the Clarks and told Bob to kiss his bride.
And he did just that.
Norma and Bob met while students at Santa Fe State. She was there to get a degree in arts and he was getting his master’s in sociology.
They met while Bob was giving a report, he said, adding that Norma immediately caught his eye.
“I thought she was kind of cute,” he said.
They soon began dating.
After graduation, Bob served in the Army for two years, including during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He was on his way to Cuba when President John F. Kennedy called the troops back.
The couple set a wedding date and after what could have been another setback — Bob waiting to be discharged — they were married (they thought).
“And now we are here to tell our tale,” Norma said. “Everyone thinks it’s a real kick.”
“It was interesting to review what happened that day because it had been so long ago,” she said. “Seeing the pictures again brought back so many memories of the day. By the time they were done filing their certificate at the (records office), everyone clapped. “It was really cute.”
Norma and Bob moved to Redlands 20 years ago with their adult daughter and son, Sarah and Alexander.