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Missionary couple makes Rugby their temporary home

By Sue Sitter - | Jul 17, 2021

Sue Sitter/PCT Charles and Dianne Clark sit on a bench in front of Rugby’s Geographical Center of North America Monument.

Charles and Dianne Clark call themselves “long-term visitors” to Rugby. “We’re not tourists, but not permanent residents,” Charles explained.

The Clarks arrived in Rugby recently from Idaho, where they had retired after living in Indianapolis for 28 years. While in Idaho, the couple answered a call to go on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As members of the faith, the two have shared the gospel and lived in “states on both coasts” and foreign countries such as Thailand, Brazil and Canada.

“We’ve lived on every coast, visited every state except Alaska,” Charles said.

Their calling brought them to the Geographical Center of North America and both say they love it.

“It’s our first time in North Dakota,” Charles said.

“I love it,” Dianne said. “I love your town. It’s so clean and nice…”

“And orderly,” Charles said. Both often finished each other’s sentences as long-married couples do.

“Even your hardware store shelves,” Charles said of Rugby’s orderly environment. “We’ve been to other small towns and that’s not always the case.”

“It looks like people take pride in their property,” Dianne said.

“And they have respect for property,” Charles added.

Charles said he was “surprised” by what Rugby and North Dakota had to offer.

“My career was in agricultural chemicals in the Midwest, but in all that time, I’d never been to North Dakota,” he said. “I’d heard of it. We sold to regional companies. I had a notion that North Dakota was far north and they just do wheat and sugar beets, durum wheat, that sort of thing.”

“Then, Charles added, “canola came along and I learned a little bit about that, and sunflowers. But to see the place is so much different than just thinking about it and creating in your mind a notion that isn’t true.”

“We’ve been delighted by the rolling hills,” Charles added. “I know it’s in a terrible drought situation, but in Idaho, where I’m from, when there’s a drought, everything’s brown. It’s still green here.”

Most crops in Idaho receive water from irrigation, drawing from the Snake River as a source, the Clarks explained.

The Clarks said they’ve visited the Rugby senior center, the Heart of America Library and several local retailers.

“We’ve been to Music in the Park,” Dianne said, noting she and Charles had the opportunity to meet the event’s organizer, Kathy Kirchofner, and local radio personality Dave Trottier.

“We even have a picture of her with Elvis,” Charles said, referring to a photo he snapped of Dianne when local Elvis impersonator Rick Senger performed at Music in the Park.

Both said they “very much feel welcome” in Rugby.

“The people are grand,” Charles said. “The ladies at the senior center were great, and we’ve had some good conversations at the hardware store.”

The Rugby Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is located in a building shared by Rugby’s Hardware Hank store.

The Clarks said they found the size of the Rugby church “surprising,” however, Charles said, “It’s nice to be in a town where there are a lot of churches.”

The Clarks said their purpose as missionaries is “basically spreading the gospel and (to) remind people of the beauty of having your life centered in Christ, enjoy hope and peace and happiness and good feelings about your neighbors. Strive to be a good person.”

Charles said the large number of churches in Rugby is “indicative of a good, solid, faith-based community and we’re here for that as well. Even though we represent a very tiny religion compared to the predominant ones around here, worldwide, the church we represent is growing quite well.”

“We’re in the phase right now of meeting and greeting everyone that we know who belongs to the congregation, Charles added.

The Clarks have eight children who live in several different parts of the country.

“They’re all on the east coast, Texas, Indiana, Utah, Louisiana,” Dianne said.

The Clarks said they’ve settled into their new temporary hometown and are enjoying the sites.

“We went to the museum. We walked in and paid the six bucks but I didn’t realize the whole village was included; I just thought a couple of buildings. I was in there for hours,” Charles said.

“I couldn’t reach the top of the tallest man’s head and I’m six foot five,” Charles added with a laugh, referring to a mannequin in the museum’s main building dressed in a suit belonging to Silva’s late Clifford Thompson, billed, “The World’s Tallest Man.”

“It was a little surprise and a chance to learn a little history of Pierce County and I love history,” Charles said.

Dianne, who grew up in eastern Canada and New England said the museum’s schoolhouse “brought back a lot of memories for me.”

“And the little church – it reminded me of the little church I went to when I was in Quebec. I remember those things,” Dianne added.

“It’s all been a treat so far.”

The Clarks said they decided to pen a letter to the Tribune complimenting the Rugby community.

“We’ve been in hundreds of little towns in our lives and we don’t write letters every day we go to a little town,” Charles said with a smile. “This was the first time we’ve done that.”

Dianne Clark called Rugby “a real surprise. We’ve seen little towns in Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Illinois, Indiana – you name it.”

Both Clarks said they knew their six-month stay would include a taste of North Dakota’s legendary cold winter weather, but they weren’t concerned.

“We expect it to be cold,” Charles said with a smile.

“I’ve lived in Ontario and Quebec provinces in Canada. I used to live right on the border with Vermont. I’ve also lived in upstate New York. I know what cold is,” Dianne said, adding, “I know what snow’s like. I don’t like snow.”

Charles described Rugby as “perfect the way it is.” However, he added, smiling again, “If I could change anything, I’d reduce your humidity.”

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