Wedding Bells at Watermark: Kevin Clifford & Thomas Hlinko

By : Samantha Rosenthal
Comments: 1

CliffordandHilenkoWhat will Kevin Clifford look forward to the most on his big wedding day?

“The moment I say ‘I do’— if I can get through it without crying.”

Kevin and Thomas have been together for 35 years, and it has been a journey for the two.

“Basically once we started talking, we kind of fell in love,” Thomas says. “We started dating and [in 1980] we decided to get married. We got married very young. I was 19 and Kevin was 18. We went through thick and thin. We held it all together. We’re so much in sync now we can finish one and other’s statements or know what the other one is thinking.”

While Thomas was born in Commack, N.Y. and Kevin in Largo, Fla, there was a period of time when the two men both lived in St. Petersburg.

“We both went to the same elementary school—Rosar Parks. It’s torn down now. I was in the fifth grade and Tom was in the sixth grade, and that’s when we first met,” Kevin says. “It’s funny. After elementary school, Tom moved to Ohio, New Mexico—he lived all over the U.S. I moved to South St. Pete. I was a female impersonator and I was doing a show at a bar called 411. That’s how Tom met me [as an adult].

“It was New Year’s Eve and he asked me out a couple days later, and I said ‘yeah.’ We started talking about where we went to school and we mentioned the same elementary school and we had the same friends. So we were totally meant to be together. With him moving across the U.S., me moving down South and to meet again, I think that’s pretty special.”

The couple had a Holy Union on June 7, 1980, on 66th Street in St. Petersburg, and they also had another Holy Union—like a vow renewal—in 1995 at MCC in St. Petersburg to celebrate 15 years together.

“The first one we had like 300 people at our Holy Union,” Kevin recalls. “That was packed. We had two parties after it—wedding showers. I was in a dress because I was a female impersonator. My name was Stephanie Williams, and I did shows all over Florida. That was in the early ‘80s. The second Holy Union I wanted to be in a tuxedo. I had stopped doing shows then, so that’s why we did that. But now we’re getting married, and we are both going to be barefoot—a plain, simple beach wedding.”

And what has been the secret to their long and happy relationship?

“It’s just dealing with the other person’s goods and bads and working through everything,” Thomas says. “Unfortunately in the gay society, so many people say they’re married to this person or with this person but you know six months go by and they’re looking for somebody else.”

After their wedding in June, they plan on taking a trip in their RV, possibly to San Antonio to see the Alamo and just relax together.

“We’re going to grow old together—that’s it,” Kevin says. “We own our own home. We have an RV. We love to travel. We’ve been as far as Salem, Mass., to Yellowstone. We love to travel, so we’re either gonna grow old in our home here or in our RV.”

35 years

June 7, 2015

Treasure Island, Florida, on Sunset Beach at sunset.

Will be made by Rev. Randall Aaron Forshee, who will also be the officiant.

“Taste the Rainbow”— Because of the gay flag and Skittles. Guests will receive a bundle of Skittles.

They own an RV and have traveled across the U.S., including to the Grand Canyon.

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