Second time's a charm

Couple set to wed one another again

Fairfield Daily Republic ©

Dorothy Clauson, a 68-year-old redhead, laughs gently when asked of her first true love.

Tommy Raley was a neighborhood boy, just a few years older, who took her to a drive-in movie on their first date to see 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.'

He kissed her three times, Clauson remembers, but only once on the lips.

They fell in love and, with time, Raley asked for her hand in marriage during Clausons senior year in high school.

Nine months later, one day after her graduation, the couple, both dressed in white, married on June 15, 1957.

Two children and 13 years later, they divorced. Clauson found her husband an apartment, packed his belongings and handed him the keys. She would not speak to him again for 37 years.

Clauson, who lives in Cordelia, describes those years without him as decades filled with anger and hurt. She considered him to be a 'jerk' who was 'too macho' while they were married.

Raley, with a raspy voice, didnt hesitate for a moment to agree.

'When we first married, I wasnt straight with the world and I had anger problems,' he said. 'But Im an older man now, and the anger has left me. She wasnt wrong, it was me.'

Clauson remarried three years later, becoming a widow after 29 years. As for Raley, he had two short-lived marriages after the divorce.

Something changed for Clauson in September 2006, the same month she and Raley, 72, became engaged.

'I had a feeling for repentance. I didnt hate him anymore,' she said. 'After many prayers, I called him and said, Tommy, this is Dorothy and I have something to say. '

'I said, Dorothy who? ' Raley responded. 'I thought it was a telemarketer because I didnt know of any Dorothys.'

The conversation lasted four minutes, although Clauson said it felt like 20. Regardless, she said, it was a nice conversation and plans were made for him to visit the family.

In December, Raley came from his hometown in Humboldt County and stayed for three hours, enough time to fall in love all over again.

'When she hugged me good-bye, I felt all the warmth come through,' he said. 'Thats when I decided I wanted to be with her. What are the chances?'

For Clauson, who had not seen Raley in almost four decades, the thin man of the 1950s and 60s appeared differently than she remembered.

'He was quite a bit heavier, but hes a big man,' she confessed. 'He has less hair and he had this white beard that we got rid of. Were working on our weight now.'

Raley also felt apprehensive.

'I was skeptical. You never know what time does to a person. Sometimes it sharpens things and sometimes it dulls things,' he said with a chuckle.

The following day, Raley called Clauson and asked if they could make the marriage work again. She declined at first. Then weeks later, she agreed.

'It sort of materialized in January, when I drove up to see him,' Clauson said. 'We drove to a park and talked for hours. Thats when we became engaged. He hugged me like you wouldnt believe!'

Today, the day that would have been their 50th wedding anniversary, the couple will wed in Klamath at the Trees of Mystery, the Cathedral, a place where nine trees form a circle to create what looks like an outdoor cathedral.

'Were using the same wedding top for the cake,' Clauson said. 'It looked like a pile of junk, but I had a friend refurbish it.'

Theyre also using the same wedding rings, which Clauson kept stored in a box both his and hers. Shes wearing a white dress, she said, and possibly a garter.

'Someone gave it to me because I wouldnt have gotten one for myself,' she said with a giggle. 'Its a good chance.'

As for Raley, hes just stepping back and letting Clauson make the plans.

'She is something else, I tell you. Shes the mother of my children and shes everything, you know. She does everything she can,' he said. 'I missed being with her. There are a lot of valuable things that happened, like the kids growing up, and I have regrets. Very much I have regrets. But shes my first love.'