Since meeting each other, the couple had dinner together every day for 14 nights, and that was enough time for them to know their's was love that would last a lifetime and it did.
For James Garner and Lois Clarke, it was love at first sight. And although they fell for each other quickly, their love did stand the test of time for almost 58 years. Garner, who served in the United States Army National Reserve and the Merchant Marines before launching into his over five-decade acting career, met Clarke in August 1956. Two weeks later, they got married.
Since meeting each other, the couple had dinner together every day for 14 nights, and that was enough time for them to know their's was love that would last a lifetime and it did. Like any marriage, they too had their ups and downs but remained strong for almost 58 years until Garner passed away from a heart attack in 2014.
After tying the knot in 1956, Garner and Clarke separated briefly in 1971 and in 1979 but the pair claimed they did not have any marital problems. "Lois and I were never in serious trouble. Ninety-nine percent of the problem was the pressures of 'Rockford.' It wasn't us, it was me needing to get away to get my head together,'" Garner told PEOPLE in 1985.
Buried in one of the 103 boxes of Cuban Missile Crisis mail at the JFK Library is this gem from James Garner and Lois Clarke. I was thrilled to find it. #CubanMissileCrisisLetters pic.twitter.com/39AsMwLLIl— Bill Geerhart (@CONELRAD6401240) January 20, 2022
At one point there were rumors about Garner dating other women while working on The Rockford Files but the actor decided on them as well. "I've worked with a lot of great-looking actresses, and I make it my business not to dislike any of them. I also make it my business not to fall in love with them either," he said, reassuring everyone of his love for Clarke.
He also professed his love for Clarke in a memoir titled The Garner Files. "I fell in love for the first and last time on August 1, 1956 at an Adlai Stevenson for President barbeque. That's where I met Lois Clarke. It was love at first sight. The thunderbolt. She was as beautiful as she was sweet… It was a barbeque and I ended up in the pool with the children," he wrote.
"That's how I got to talk to Lois. Within the first few minutes, she told me she had a daughter from her first marriage, Kimberly, who had polio… Lois and I saw each other every day until August 17, when we were married in the Beverly Hills courthouse. My family was against the marriage. They pointed out that Lois and I had little in common," he shared.
James Garner and wife Lois Clarke photographed at JFK en route to London 1964. pic.twitter.com/nWXJQ8a7a7— Joan Darc (@joandarcdoll) January 18, 2015
Despite the difficulties, the two made it work. "None of the naysayers had stopped to consider that Lois and I complemented each other. What they saw as weaknesses, we saw as strengths," he expressed.
Garner, unfortunately, experienced a slew of health issues throughout his life. "I'm constantly in pain. I have arthritis in my back and my knees and my hands. I had ulcers this year—and once an ulcer patient, always an ulcer patient. I get depressed. Very," he revealed. But throughout it all, Clarke remained by his side.
"She's just stuck with me all these years. I guess she's stubborn too," shared the actor who tragically passed away at the age of 86 leaving her loving wife behind. As for Clarke, she has always defended her husband. "Jim is a rather complicated man and is covering up lots of hurt. Growing up he was abused, lonely, and deprived," she told PEOPLE about the physical abuse Garner suffered at the hands of his stepmother as a child.
Cover image source: Getty | Photo by Dove