Roshena Clarke and Chris McNeil met when they were both in middle school, she at King Lab (now King Arts) and he at Nichols. The two lived across the alley from each other and casually dated as young teens.
After not really speaking to each other while they both attended ETHS, Roshena and Chris went their separate ways. The two reconnected about 3½ years ago when Roshena was on Facebook and sent Chris a “Happy Father’s Day” message. Chris has five children from a previous relationship, now ages 10 to 17. Chris’ picture appeared on her friend list and “his name stood out to me. Something just told me to reach out to him,” said Roshena.
It was that message that reunited the two and they were soon a committed couple. “I cooked dinner for her on the first date. I made huge spare ribs. The biggest ones I could find at the grocery store,” said Chris, 34. It was an “epic date night. We just picked up where we left off,” said Roshena, 32.
Both Roshena and Chris knew what they were looking for in a relationship. Chris told Roshena that “I’m looking for a wife. I’m only dating to get married.” Roshena was entirely comfortable with the idea of marriage. “The whole time we were dating we kind of both knew we were on the same page. We were looking for something long term. It didn’t scare either one of us,” said Roshena.
The two dated almost a full year before their children were introduced to each other. Roshena has three children from a previous relationship, now ages 6, 7 and 10. Neither Chris nor Roshena was worried about how it would go with all the children meeting at once. “We let them go from what they know,” said Chris. “We were just rocking and rolling from there.”
After two years together, the couple bought a home in Evanston and were ecstatic to live together. Chris had already purchased an engagement ring and wanted the proposal to be special. He was desperately trying to get family and friends involved in an intimate proposal but “there were too many cooks in the kitchen,” he said.
After getting down on one knee in the living room of their new home, Chris said, “we don’t need anyone but you and me.”
Chris explained his plan to propose to Roshena alone, without any spectators. “Everyone does things for attention and clout these days. I don’t roll like that. I wanted it to be just us and this ring was burning a hole in my pocket. I didn’t want her to have to wait,” he said.
Roshena was touched by his decision. “Chris is a planner, a real deep thinker,” she said. “He was so mature, a man. He didn’t care about wanting to go out. He wanted to spend time just with me, cook dinner, and hang out. A lot of guys aren’t at that point.”
When it came time to plan the wedding, Roshena’s friends and coworkers quickly stepped in and offered ideas of their own. Roshena is a pre-certification representative at Evanston Hospital, where she has worked for the past five years. “They knew we were little lovebirds and wanted to make plans,” she said.
Roshena is a daughter of Sharon Wallace and Michael Clarke of Evanston. Chris is a son of Phillip McNeil (deceased) and Monica Sutton and Kenneth Sutton of Indiana.
The couple were married July 2 at the Evanston Ecology Center, with an outdoor ceremony and indoor reception. Pastor Edward Bibbs, an uncle of the bride, officiated in front of 100 friends and family.
One detail that Chris was unaware of was Roshena’s transportation to the ceremony. Her sister, Shalina Clarke, had ideas of her own. “She planned for a horse and carriage and Chris was shocked!” said Roshena.
Roshena had to get clearance from the city and needed a permit for the horse. “My dad rode with me in the carriage to the ceremony and we needed a police escort.” Though not a huge fan of horses, Chris quickly warmed to the idea and climbed aboard following the ceremony for a ride around the block with his bride. “It was pretty cool. Kids were running behind us. We ain’t famous, we just fools in love,” said Chris.
Chris and Roshena spent a magical time in the Bahamas following their wedding. Clearly, for this happy couple, the honeymoon is far from over.
“Since the wedding, I’ve been driving around smiling and I’m like, I don’t even know why I’m smiling,” said Chris.
In fact, while on the phone with his brother Ryan McRay one day, Chris said he couldn’t stop smiling. Ryan had the explanation: “You’re happy and in love.” Chris works as a tow truck operator for Horcher’s Towing.
Chris and Roshena share a commitment that’s bound by friendship and support. “It’s good to have a partner there to always reassure me that everything’s OK,” Roshena said.
The two do that for each other. “We’re never both down. We always equal 100%,” she said.
As for the years the couple spent not seeing each other, “we needed that time apart to go our separate ways before we came back together,” said Roshena. “I was so amazed by the man he had become. It felt like a match made in heaven. Meant to be.”