SOUTH TAMPA — Two years ago, Clark Jordan-Holmes would have laughed if you told him he'd be hiking —and getting hopelessly lost — in the Ocala National Forest.
That also goes for enjoying power walks, classical music and Jameson Irish Whiskey as much (almost) as Heather Caswell does.
Love does that: opens the mind and heart to new possibilities. That's why they were trekking, in February 2012, "in exactly the opposite direction we sought," said Heather.
"Our one-hour hike turned into three or four hours, two days in a row," Clark said.
"He must have slept a week afterwards," she said, squeezing her husband's hand.
Absorbing each other's interests — like his fondness for lively Latin West Tampa cafes and 1960s band the Lovin' Spoonful — may be the best part of creating a life together.
"She didn't understand why anyone needs to listen to anything post-Beethoven," said bluegrass lover Clark. "And she had never eaten breakfast at 3 a.m. at La Teresita."
Heather, 63, turns an uncharacteristic schoolgirl pink recalling how they became acquainted.
"I was at a Christmas party with the girls of the CEO Council," she said. "Someone, couldn't possibly have been me, blurted out, 'I am so tired of being on my own.' "
Her head whipped around, she said, as shocked as her companions that those words came from her. "It was so terribly unlike me." Three years earlier, her husband of 34 years, John Caswell, had succumbed to heart disease and cancer, leaving her to run their behavioral assessment and employment consulting firm, Omnia Group.
Heather and Clark each received an email the next day from a mutual, fast-acting friend who had been at the party: They needed to meet each other.
Easier said than done.
"He called right off, and we had a lovely conversation," she said. "Rather unusual these days, a man that actually talks on the telephone." Now a mediator, Clark, 66, has practiced law in Tampa for nearly 40 years.
But Heather's calendar was less open than her heart.
"It was embarrassing; I was busy at some function every date that he was available."
Eventually, they cleared a Sunday, late afternoon, for drinks at Timpano Chophouse in Hyde Park.
They spoke for hours: of his three children and her two, plus her three stepchildren. Of her life in Malaysia, Singapore and Africa as the daughter of a career British army officer. Of his year serving in Vietnam between college and law school.
Their personal and professional paths seemed to overlap. Clark's late wife of 25 years, Sarah Jordan-Holmes, had even solicited Heather to join the board of the foundation she ran, Prevent Blindness Florida.
Six months later, Clark and Heather were engaged.
"When you're our ages," Clark said, "you don't wait for eternity."
The day before Father's Day 2012, the couple met Clark's oldest son's family for lunch at Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, where Heather will soon become a board member. President-botanist David Price gave them a tour, then, as prearranged, diverted the younger set, including Clark's two grandchildren, off to see the bells. The lovebirds headed to the tower.
"I was admiring the glorious view," Heather said. "I turned around and he was opening a ring box." Only then did she see the roses that had been delivered to the balcony.
She flung her arms around him without an answer.
"I guess that's a yes" he said.
Again, the challenge was synchronizing schedules. At last, with five of their eight kids present ("A majority," Clark quipped), they married March 30 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Stockbridge, Mass. The bride carried anemones, lilacs, tulips, irises and white freesias. The men wore bow ties of Heather's family tartan.
The New England location was chosen to ease travel for the bride's father, Derry Livingstone, 94, of Colchester, England. He flew from London to Boston in just six hours.
The two families blended that weekend at a bed-and-breakfast hotel over Jameson Irish Whiskey and beer brewed by Heather's son.
A honeymoon? Soon as they can get it on their calendars.
Amy Scherzer can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3332.