BOUNTIFUL — It’s hard to be apart from the one you love.
Clare and Ila Bishop, this year’s Clipper Sweethearts, knew only a few months after their first meeting that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. Then Clare’s LDS mission call delayed the wedding two years, and a career with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints kept him away from home for long stretches of time.
Four children and more than 50 years of marriage later, that distance is only a memory.
“When I asked her to marry me, she said she would on one condition Р that I be home every night,” Clare said. “Then I went to work for the church.”
Ila smiled. “Sometimes he’d take the whole night driving home after he’d been gone for a week.”
The couple met at BYU in late October, and by December they were already planning a June wedding. When Clare got called on a mission to a Navajo reservation, they had to delay the wedding by two years.
“We got married three weeks after he got home,” said Ila.
“And she’s been my sweetheart ever since,” said Clare.
The mission wouldn’t be his last departure, however. Clare spent most of career as director of the church’s Indian Student Placement Program, a job he followed with stints in Employment and Humanitarian Services. All three positions required extensive travel.
“It was hard being away from my family,” said Clare.
He called as often as he could, but there weren’t many other ways to stay in touch.
“We didn’t have cell phones back then,” said Ila. “And a letter wouldn’t get to him until after he was back.”
During those times, she turned to prayer.
“Whenever anything came up, I’d go to my Heavenly Father and say ‘I need to talk,’” she said. “With my husband gone a lot, I learned to live by prayer.”
Hearing this, Clare shared a soft smile with his wife. “And sometimes, I lived by her prayers.”
The two reminisce in harmony, completing each other’s thoughts and offering gentle correction when they feel the other person is remembering incorrectly. Clare was the first to point out Ila’s tenure as president of the Salt Lake Council of Women and the Promised Valley Playhouse Guild, and Ila called later to mention that Clare had won the Silver Beaver Award while with the Boy Scouts.
It’s a connection that’s kept them going through the tough times.
“Learn how to negotiate with each other and solve problems,” said Clare. “If you can’t talk to each other, you’ll have challenges.”
Ila agreed. “We’ve had differences of opinions, but we worked through them.”
They also found opportunities to travel together. After their four sons were grown, Clare and Ila served on missions to South Africa and Martin’s Cove, Wyo.
“I had two grandmas who went out with the Martin and Willie Handcart Companies,” said Ila. “I just felt I had to do it for them.”
“She had gone everywhere with me, but I didn’t want to go,” said Clare. “But she did, so we went.”
Though a son’s cancer scare nearly kept them at home, prayer and a miraculous recovery meant that they spent the next two years watching over the youth who re-enacted the pioneer’s handcart treks across the plains.
“It was a good mission to finish with,” said Clare.
“Like the icing on the cake,” added Ila.
Now, they’re focused on spending time with their children, 22 grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.
“We’re learning from them,” said Ila.
And in Clare’s eyes, he’s still standing next to the best-looking girl at BYU.
“It doesn’t matter what I do,” he said with a smile. “As long as I’m with her, no one pays any attention to me.”