Love in the Waterfront District

November 2017

The love story of Deborah and Mark Clements began with two chance meetings at Tony & Adams Bar & Grill.

“We had no mutual friends,” Deborah tells me. “A previous relationship is what originally brought Mark to Thunder Bay from England, and that relationship had ended just prior to us meeting at Tony & Adams. He was there by himself, and he kind of got absorbed into the group of people I was with that night. We were excited, we were there celebrating a friend’s new job and Mark just got pulled in. I was very interested in him immediately,” says Deborah to me before Mark arrives. “But don’t tell him that.”

“The night ended, and I didn’t know anything about Mark. I left thinking I’d probably never see him again,” says Deborah. “But I did, three months later, again at Tony & Adams.”

Mark left his hometown of Guildford, England to come to Thunder Bay when he was in his mid-twenties. He worked as a computer programmer and his job allowed him to work remotely from Canada. Deborah was born and raised in Thunder Bay but moved to Korea for six years after university before returning to the city and getting a job working for the Department of International Education at Confederation College (she is now a Professor of Communications in the department of Business, Hospitality, and Media Arts at the college).

“I had come back to Thunder Bay fairly recently and I wasn’t very keen on the dating scene,” explains Deborah. “During that time I felt a bit displaced myself, and I think this helped Mark and I to connect.”

“Really? I thought it was my charm and my devilish good looks,” says Mark.

Deborah laughs, and insists that it “was not the accent” that drew her in.

“The second time I saw him, I jumped in front of him and asked him if he remembered me. The friend I was there with was laughing because this is not something that I usually do. Mark said, ‘I was just thinking about you,’ so I asked, ‘Were you thinking, why didn’t I ask for that cute girl’s number?’” “And his reply was, ‘no!’”

“As I’ve tried to explain to Deborah many times since, I had actually been thinking about her, and I thought up this whole thing to say to her but I was so surprised to see her and I was so focused on what I wanted to say to her that it just did not come out terribly well. It ended up sounding like I was saying ‘no.’”

“But he did take my number,” says Deborah, “and we did go on a date to Seattle Coffeehouse.”

Mark’s English accent did come into play during this particular outing, and makes for a great first date memory for Deborah and Mark.

“On our coffee date, Mark was unable to successfully order a latte because the barista could not at all understand what he wanted,” explains Deborah.
Mark repeated “latte” numerous times to no avail – the barista could not decipher the word behind his accent. “I was getting a bit desperate actually,” says Mark, “I wasn’t sure how else to say it.”

“Maybe the barista was just gobsmacked by your good looks and charm and she just could not focus on what you were saying,” offers Deborah. “Or she could tell that I had a blistering hangover.”

One aspect of Deborah’s job at the college that ended up proving quite significant for her and Mark and their choice to live and work in Thunder Bay was that she led tours around the city for international students.

“It was my job to introduce the students to the city, and in that role I also got to know the city again. I got to experience Thunder Bay as a tourist and to see it from the eyes of my students. Through giving the tours I realized how amazing this city is.”

When Mark met Deborah, his relationship had ended and he had no family here, so he was mostly looking to leave.

“I hadn’t really experienced Thunder Bay much,” says Mark. “But Deborah’s big move was to bring me out to her camp on Mackenzie Beach.” Even in its frozen February state, it was hard for Mark to resist the immense beauty of Lake Superior.

“I told him to picture what it’s like in the summer when it’s a white sandy beach,” adds Deborah.

“We’re also both foodies, and of course the food scene here was starting to explode when we first started dating. We also got involved in a lot of different events within the community and met a lot of really great people through that. We feel so supported by our community,” says Deborah.

The couple also strives to shop and support local establishments as much as they can. They love the country market and they often find themselves at Maltese.

Their wedding took place in the Port Arthur downtown core, with the marina being the ceremony venue and then onto the Silver Birch and Mariners Hall for dinner and the reception. From meeting there to marrying there a few years later, the waterfront district has come to mean a lot to Deborah
and Mark.

Cassandra Blair has a Masters of Arts in English Literature and is a regular contributor to Bayview.

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