Regular island visitors Thomas and Janice Hawk renew their vows after 40 years
An American couple who honeymooned in Grand Cayman in the 1970’s returned this week to renew their wedding vows after 40 years.
The couple, who have vacationed in Cayman almost every year for the past four decades, say they still find the island the perfect place for a romantic getaway.
“It was paradise and the most beautiful beach we had ever seen. For a honeymoon, it was just perfect because it was very secluded. You could walk a few feet into the sea and there were conch shells everywhere,” said Janice Hawk. Her husband Thomas said he recalled from his first visit to the island that everyone was very friendly and the seafood was out of this world.
Thomas and Janice Hawk, 66 and 64 respectively, gathered with family and friends Monday evening on the beach at the Wharf Restaurant to celebrate 40 years of marriage. Reverend Godfrey Meghoo performed the ceremony at which the couple again promised their love and fidelity to one another and exchanged rings.
“It was such a lovely evening with lots of fireworks and a wonderful night. I will never forget it,” said Mrs. Hawk, who was dressed in the same wedding dress she wore 40 years ago. When the St. Louis, Missouri residents Dr. Hawk, an orthopedic surgeon, and wife Janice, an events producer, first visited the island, they believe there were only two hotels on the whole of Seven Mile Beach. Dr. Hawk said they were building the Holiday Inn at the time.
The couple toured the island by bus in the 1970’s, meeting many of the local characters. They say they’ve been coming to Cayman so long that “Barefoot Man” was known as “Barefoot Boy” when they first got here.
They also encountered plenty of mosquitoes. “I read there were lots of mosquitoes on the island and came equipped with mosquito repellent,” said Dr. Hawk, who quickly found out that he could have sold the can of OFF for much more than he bought it for because everyone wanted it.
He also said he couldn’t get over his first experience sampling the many fresh conch dishes. “Conch was the best, … any way you wanted it, they served it. We live in the middle of the United States and do not often get fresh fish,” he said.
Dr. Hawk said the island has changed considerably since he and his wife first visited, with many more people and buildings on Cayman, but the wonderful thing is the miles of white sandy beach is still here and the people are still friendly.
The couple met at a dance class in 1965 and it was love at first sight. As a teenager, he had brought his sisters to a dance class at which Janice, then just 15, was the instructor. “I fell in love with the dancing teacher,” said Dr. Hawk, explaining it wasn’t until 1966 that they went on a first date at an amusement park.
“It was lots of fun but he was leaving to go away to Yale University. He was 18 and I was beginning high school at 15,” said Mrs. Hawk. Her husband then added they did not see each other for the next three years until he saw Janice performing at “Six Flags,” an amusement park with live performances and he called and asked her for a date. They courted off and on for the next 10 years.
The couple were engaged in August 1974 and married in February the following year at the Transfiguration Catholic Church in St. Louis. Two days later, they flew to the Cayman Islands to enjoy a week-long honeymoon at the Galleon Beach Hotel on Seven Mile Beach. At their wedding, Dr. Hawk admits he was very nervous. He remembers his best man Dalton Devore writing “Help” on the soles of his shoes, and guests having a snicker as he as he knelt at the altar with his wife.
The Hawks credit the key elements of the long marriage to compromise, tolerance of differences and respect. “I love my wife just as much as the first day we met, and I would marry her again in a heartbeat,” Dr. Hawk said.
“You have to look at the big picture and be willing to accept changes along the way,” his wife added.
Dr. Hawk always tells people that staying married is the hardest thing one can do, but if people love each other, are willing to compromise and try to make it work, they are much better off. “You have to look at the big picture with your family and children, and the rewards at the end of the road are much greater,” he said.
The couple have returned to Cayman nearly every year since their honeymoon, with the exception of a year or two following Hurricane Ivan. As the years went by, they brought with them first their daughter Heather, then her husband Woody, and now grandchildren LeeAnn, Lacey and JW.