Clemma and Sterling Elmore have a love story worthy of a romance novel. The couple’s paths crossed 57 years ago, and they’ve been together ever since that fateful first encounter.
Last Friday, September 2, Stacy Welch-Christ of Mary Evelyn Photography met the pair in a pasture for a Notebook-inspired photo shoot. In an exclusive new interview with The Knot, the photographer describes what it was like to capture their love and why she believes the photos have gone viral.
Welch-Christ says she’s known the Wewoka, Oklahoma-based couple for years — they’re the grandparents of her sister-in-law. “They show me the same love that they express to their grandchildren,” she tells The Knot. “I call them nanaw and papaw.”
The real-life love story began the moment Sterling first saw Clemma. “He said, ‘That’s the girl I’m going to marry,'” Clemma, 76, told ABC News in an interview on Tuesday. Four months later, the couple listened to a radio broadcast together when a man proposed to his girlfriend, prompting Clemma to jokingly propose to her boyfriend.
“And he says ‘yes,'” Clemma continued. “And I thought, ‘Oh, did he mean that?’ I didn’t want to ask him. I wanted him to ask me.”
The proposal stuck – and the couple was married the following Saturday.
“Their story is one of lasting love,” photographer Welch-Christ tells us of the pair. “For their family, they have been a perfect example of how to make a marriage not only work, but how to also keep affection in their marriage.”
When ABC News asked for Clemma’s tips on maintaining a long, loving marriage, she shared that couples should put God first, put work into their marriages, and always respect one another. For Clemma and Sterling, communication has been an important part of their marriage. “We never fail to tell each other, probably 10 times a day, ‘I love you,’” Clemma said in the interview.
During the photo session with Welch-Christ, the duo shared their love for one another through kisses, hand-holding, hugs, and laughter. They held photos and love letters from their younger years and canoodled in the bed of a vintage truck.
The photographer tells The Knot that there were no real challenges while photographing the Elmore’s. “Clemma and Sterling were two of the most natural people I’ve ever photographed,” she recalls. “We teared up from the first shot. He led her out in the pasture making sure she didn’t fall. When I told them to ‘love up,’ they did and it was magical. It was just there! I think that is what everyone is seeing and why they are so popular. This is true love!”
The photographer posted the collection of just over 30 photos on Facebook, and it didn’t take long for the sweet story and beautiful images to touch people’s hearts. Within days, the post had elicited 15,000 likes and and had been shared over 42,000 times.
“I hoped that with this shoot, we could capture Clemma and Sterling’s love for [each other] and for their family,” Welch-Christ tells The Knot. “I knew that our community would respond and be uplifted by it, but I never thought these events would happen.”
The gifted photographer is a big fan of The Notebook, sharing that it’s her favorite movie and an inspiration to her and many others. “It’s an inspirational movie, perfectly depicted by wonderful actors about true lasting love,” she tells us. “Don’t give up when it gets tough love… Keep loving each other through any obstacles in your journey, and in the end you’ve created this beautiful legacy for your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. That is what Clemma and Sterling represent.”
The Elmore’s are also fans of the popular Nicholas Sparks movie, which was adapted from his 1996 novel. “I love that movie. We both love that movie,” Clemma said of the popular film. “Such a sweet movie. We have seen it twice.”
The Notebook-inspired photos will be enjoyed by the couple’s family over time. “Clemma said these were going to be some of her best memories,” Welch-Christ tells The Knot. “That’s what I enjoy most. I put every ounce of my heart in every project I do, and their reaction is what I wait for. That’s when I know I’ve succeeded.”
Clemma and Sterling will be celebrating their 58th wedding anniversary in February.