MILLINOCKET, Maine — Now that the town has certified him a monogamist, Ben Clark is married to one woman and plans to stay that way, his father said Thursday.
A 29-year-old Peace Corps volunteer from Farmington, Clark exchanged vows with his bride on Saturday in the city of Bandjoun, in the West African Republic of Cameroon, thanks to the letter from Town Council Chairman Wallace Paul, Quentin “Quinnie” Clark said.
Written on town stationery in response to a request from Clark, Paul’s letter verified that Ben Clark had never been married, especially not to several people, and was of good character.
Polygamy is legal in Cameroon, a nation of nearly 18 million, and Cameroonian law requires grooms to declare their preference and offer proof of it from their place of birth, which in Clark’s case is Millinocket.
Quentin Clark was grateful for the help.
“We were very lucky we weren’t in New York City or someplace like that,” Clark said Thursday. “We were able to call Wally on a human scale and get what we needed done. I can imagine how difficult it would be if we had to call on a big bureaucracy so that was good. I am sure he [Ben Clark] is very happy.”
Paul, who wrote the letter with help from Town Clerk Roxanne Johnson, was happy to oblige.
“I feel that if people like Ben are what’s representing us around the world, we’re probably making a good impression,” Paul said. “I was honored by the whole thing. As I told Roxanne, true love prevails because of Millinocket.”
The Clarks look forward to meeting their new daughter-in-law. They know her to be a seamstress named Lucie Kegnie who also works as a translator for their son, an agroforestry Extension agent paid $2,700 annually by the Peace Corps.
A superintendent for SAD 58 who worked with Paul for about 15 years at the Millinocket paper mill, Quentin Clark e-mailed Paul pictures of the wedding that Paul shared with Johnson and other councilors.
He and Paul respected Cameroonian laws.
“Part of the whole Peace Corps thing is about cultural understanding and that is their culture over there,” Clark said. “Polygamy is accepted over there and you have to define it. Our practices probably look as bizarre to them as theirs do to us.”
Fluent in French, German and Fulfulde, a West African language, and having gone to Germany as an exchange student, Clark is an adventurer rather beyond the scope of his admiring parents, Clark said.
“With our generation, going to Boston was beyond imagination,” Clark said. “I think it’s a great sign of human progress where Africa isn’t too far away to be engaged in our lives.”
As the pictures show the mayor of Bandjoun to be wearing a ceremonial sash, Clark thinks it appropriate that he buy Paul something similar.
“I think in their world, Wally is the head man of his village. A lot of their issues and society over there are tribal and Wally would be their chief,” Clark said. “I am thinking of buying a nice sash for Wally for his official duties.”