Editor's Note: Clemma and Sterling Elmore have become an internet sensation after their "Notebook"-themed photos went viral. Below the story, find more photos from their session and a sweet video of the photographer's work.
Stacy Welch-Christ, 40, is your typical small-town farm girl.
She lives in Wewoka, Oklahoma, with her husband, Ryan, and two daughters, Grace, 9, and Clara, 5. The city’s population is somewhere around 3,000.
Born in an “even smaller” town named Sasakwa, with just 100 residents, this mom most certainly hasn’t experienced big-city living.
But she’s gained notoriety around the world in a matter of days.
Stacy, who studied business and kinesiology before earning a bachelor’s degree at East Central University, is creative, to say the least.
After getting married in 2001, she gave birth to her daughters and suffered a pregnancy loss in between, something that’s had a big impact on her appreciation of every single moment. She pours that passion into her work.
Three years ago, in the midst of homeschooling her girls and helping with the family’s feed store, Angus Valley Ranch & Equipment (where they also live), she discovered her true calling.
And now, the world is in awe of her latest creation.
Stacy owns Mary Evelyn Photography (named in honor of her grandmothers), a business she started with much encouragement from loved ones.
To this day, she credits her husband, parents and younger sister for motivating her to keep creating magic.
“I’ve always been the family photographer,” she says. “I don’t want to miss a moment – I always get all the couples together … it’s what I’ve always done.”
Her sister-in-law, Amber, suggested she take her hobby and turn it into a career, and ever since, Stacy’s been shooting away.
But it wasn’t until earlier this month that her photos started making their way around the world – and one couple, in particular, was the catalyst.
Sterling & Clemma
A PAGE FROM THEIR 'NOTEBOOK'
“Amber's good friend, Starla, was my first 'real' photo shoot," Stacy says. "She has always encouraged me. She sent me a message one day, saying ‘I know you love to take pictures of sweet moments – have you ever thought about Clemma and Sterling (Elmore)? How about capturing their love.’ “
The couple has been married for almost 58 years. Clemma is 76, and Sterling is 80.
“They’re the sweetest people I have ever met,” Stacy says. “They’re affectionate, and they say ‘I love you’ at least 10 times a day. She said he loves on her, hugs her, every single day.”
Staying with each other through all life’s circumstances is not an easy task – and for Stacy, one popular movie reflects that special connection.
“I’m so inspired by ‘The Notebook,’ " she explains. The movie, released in 2004, stars Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams as a 1940s couple that defied all odds to live the love of a lifetime.
“Some people grow out of that,” Stacy says. “But not Clemma and Sterling.”
The photographer wanted to capture the couple's love forever – and what better way than by staging a “Notebook”-themed photo shoot?
“Clemma was nervous, but excited,” Stacy explains. “I found the dress at a thrift store, got some outfits together. Sterling, he dressed as he usually does, he loves cute little hats. I told them, ‘Look, this is just for fun. This is gonna be the best memory. ' ”
So they went for it.
On the day of the shoot, their great-grandchildren were playing in the pasture while they posed, and it was an extremely emotional experience.
“When they would kiss,” Stacy says, “we would have tears running down our face. It was the sweetest thing to watch – they just lean right in. It was the most natural thing ever.”
The session, which lasted about an hour, included some shots with a 1954 Chevy as the backdrop.
“I told Sterling to think back to when he was courting her, and to lean in while sitting on the truck and give her a smooch,” Stacy says. “That was my favorite part … Clemma would say, ‘Ooh, Sterling, don’t get too anxious, be patient!’ ”
So, the million-dollar question:
What’s the secret to making the magic last?
It comes down to love
A CULMINATION OF LIFE’S MOMENTS IN TIME
“She told me they do everything together,” Stacy says. “They keep a lot of love in their marriage. They aren’t afraid to show love, and they tell each other throughout the day. Clemma said, ‘I wanted someone to show me every day how much he loves me. That’s why Sterling was perfect.’ ”
Clemma recalls the moment she first laid eyes on her man.
Couple shares 60-year love story behind 'Notebook' photos
“They were at a burger joint,” Stacy says. “She and her friend were trying to find money to split a burger, and he was trying to get up the courage to come up to her, give her the money and buy it. The first time he saw her, he said he knew she was the one.”
Stacy, who calls this, by far, her favorite shoot to date, explains how Clemma and Sterling’s love is a culmination of life’s moments in time.
“All those engagement shoots, family shoots, it all rounds out to that legacy of where you stayed together,” she says, “That’s the end product, right there, of every other shoot I do. You hope and pray that they have this wonderful life ... and it goes from there. I would have loved to do this with my grandparents - they had a legacy of love, too.”
Toward the end of the shoot, after one specific kiss, Stacy recalls Sterling whispering something into his bride’s ear.
“They were laughing,” she says. “And we still don’t know what he told her.”
Another magical moment in their love story.