A groom wins his bride with old-fashioned persistence


For Kim West and Ed Clark, it was love at second sight—the first sight failed to ignite passion.

Ed, 58, says he has an excuse for this. The first time he met his future bride, in February 2008, he was dead tired. He’d been on a plane for 36 hours, returning home to Waynesboro from Africa, where he occasionally travels as part of his job as president and co-founder of the Wildlife Center of Virginia. 

Kim West and Ed Clark

October 17, 2009

Photo by Sarah Cramer Shields

That evening, Ed was scheduled to attend a wine tasting dinner at a friend’s house in Charlottesville. One of the guests was Kim West, 46, a scientist for Johnson & Johnson. Ed thought the thoughtful, intelligent brunette was attractive, but witty banter didn’t exactly fly off his tongue. “We talked a bit,” recalls Kim. “Nothing clicked.” 
But Ed wasn’t going to allow something as trivial as mutual indifference to hinder him from getting to know the lovely Dr. West. The next morning, he e-mailed Kim. Kim was surprised to receive a message from the tired guy she’d felt zero chemistry with, so her response, she says, veered more toward eh than exuberant.
But Ed continued to e-mail Kim; she graciously rebuffed him each time. Soon, the e-mails graduated to phone calls. It was now spring—Cinco de Mayo. Ed invited Kim for a drink at the restaurant Guadalajara. She relented.
Over margaritas and guacamole, Kim was pleasantly surprised by Ed’s charm, intelligence and wit. “We laughed hysterically for four hours,” she says. She was also impressed by how much he’d accomplished in his life.
Once they started dating, they realized each represented the yin to the other’s yang. “Kim is very thoughtful, very analytical, she’s a scientist,” says Ed. “I tend to be a lateral, mind-wandering creative thinker. I have all these big ideas—”
“—I’m very detail-oriented,” Kim interjects. “He’s not at all.” 
The dichotomy also posed its share of challenges. “I’m really decisive; I come on strong. I wanted to see Kim all the time,” says Ed. “But Kim analyzes everything. She kept coming up with reasons why it wasn’t a good idea, why we needed to slow down.” 
Eventually, Ed’s persistence softened Kim’s resistance. There was talk of marriage. One day, Kim offhandedly remarked, “With my luck, you’ll propose to me at the cabin.” Ed’s cabin is in Pennsylvania; he’s been going there since he was a child. “It’s literally my favorite place on earth,” he says. “But it’s not yet Kim’s favorite place. She has this thing about indoor plumbing.” 
“It was a done deal,” he says. “I had to propose to her at the cabin.”
Ed planned to propose to Kim the day after Thanksgiving, 2008. Before departing for Pennsylvania, Kim ran errands while Ed surreptitiously packed his pickup truck with the necessary proposal accoutrements: Dom Pérignon, a dozen roses, dark chocolate, the right music, the eight-stone diamond ring he’d co-designed with a friend. In his haste, he hit himself square in the face with a ladder. The accident left a nasty red welt on his forehead, which he managed to conceal with a cap.
By the time Kim and Ed arrived in separate vehicles at the cabin hours later, it was freezing cold and snowing. Ed told Kim to sit tight and listen to Christmas carols in her car while he rushed inside to make the cabin cozy and comfortable for her. She was more than happy to oblige, and didn’t notice Ed moving roses and champagne from his truck to the cabin.
Once he hustled her inside, “he plopped me in a chair and began spouting all these beautiful things—‘You’re so beautiful, you mean so much to me,’” says Kim. “My first thought was, ‘What did you do?’ I thought he was apologizing for something. But then I noticed the roses and chocolate.” 
Fast forward to the October 17, 2009 wedding at the Clifton Inn. No detail was too small to overlook—from the elegant pink and brown color palette to Kim and Ed’s horse-drawn carriage to cocktails of Champagne poured over hibiscus flowers. 
A final elegant touch: Paper “cootie catchers”—the elaborately folded paper fortune telling game from childhood—adorned each table. 
One of the questions: “How did Kim win Ed’s heart?” Answer: “She did not win it. He forced it on her.” And neither could be happier.