Timeless Love

By Debbie Lagestee     •     Photos by Valerie & Ed Photography

Nicole and Clay Middleton met when they were both students at Burke High School in Charleston, SC. They dated while in high school and parted ways during their college years but always remained friends. When they began dating again in 2005 Nicole said, “I never thought we’d end up here!” Clay went to The Citadel where he earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees. He is also a graduate of the US Army Command and General Staff College. Clay is now a Senior Vice President at Mercury, a global public affairs firm. He is incredibly involved in national, state, and local politics. In addition to his busy career, Clay has been active in the Army National Guard for 21 years. He is currently a Major and recently selected for  Lieutenant Colonel. He is a combat veteran and earned the Bronze Star for his deployment to Iraq in 2004 and he recently returned from a tour of duty in Germany in 2018. Nicole attended Lander University in Greenwood, SC. There she earned her undergraduate degree in Public Administration. Following graduation, she moved back to Charleston and pursued her graduate degree in Finance from Strayer University. Nicole is a Contract Specialist at Naval Information Warfare Center Atlantic.

Photo by Images Photography by James Duff

After dating for 6 years, Clay proposed to Nicole in 2011 and they had their dream wedding at Clay’s alma mater, The Citadel on November 17, 2012. Their best memory together was finding out they were pregnant with their son Jeremiah after enduring the heartbreak of a miscarriage. Jeremiah is now 5 years old and in Kindergarten. Two years later almost to the day they had their 2nd son, Joshua. He is now an extremely busy 3-year-old.  Jeremiah was an easy baby, Nicole jokes, “He tricked us into having another baby, now we’re done”. Jeremiah loves playing soccer and basketball and having fun with his little brother. In school, he loves math, reading, and science. He is a smart boy who loves to be challenged academically. He is highly creative when it comes to building things. Joshua likes to build as well and he loves getting attention from his big brother, so it is an activity they do well together. Joshua spends his time playing with his transformers, superheroes, and dinosaur toys. He enjoys counting and story-time.

The Middleton family attends St. Luke R.E. Church. They are blessed Jeremiah enjoys participating in children’s church. They are also active in multiple community and civic organizations. One of their favorites is Families Helping Families, an organization dedicated to helping families in need of food, clothing, and Christmas gifts. Clay and Nicole feel strongly about teaching their boys to find ways to give back versus always receiving.

Clay and Nicole moved to Rice Field in Carolina Bay in 2017. They fell in love with the neighborhood and all the amenities it had to offer. Their home provided them the space needed for their growing family. The boys absolutely delight in afternoons spent at the park, they enjoy riding bikes and exploring the many trails throughout Carolina Bay. Food truck Fridays are always a fun way to end the week. Nicole hopes one day someone will organize and lead a group fitness class in the park. Nicole states. “We have genuinely nice and welcoming neighbors. We love the community because it’s safe, clean, the people are respectful, and the location is convenient.”

Photo by Images Photography by James Duff

Nicole and Clay both began teleworking in March 2020 due to COVID. They learned to adapt to the new lifestyle and share their home office. It was an adjustment juggling school and work, but they made the best of it and focused on the positive side of being together. Clay worked long hours and normally traveled quite a bit for his job. Being home together changed their dynamic and they began doing more together as a family. They spent more time outside playing, they began baking together, Clay and Nicole took turns with the boys so they could each have some alone time. “Clay wasn’t able to travel for work, so it was the first time in our marriage we were home together for most of the year. It allowed us to communicate better and we laughed about a lot of things just like old times”, says Nicole.

Clay and Nicole try to make a point to take one or two long weekend trips and a big trip each year. Last year they went to Hawaii to celebrate Nicole’s 40th birthday. One of the highlights of the trip was a helicopter ride giving them an aerial view of the majestic scenery of the Hawaiian Islands.

In 2018, Nicole and the boys visited Germany while Clay was deployed in Europe. During their visit they went to Legoland, the BMW Museum and they were able to visit Austria. One night they accidentally set the fire alarm off in the hotel in Germany in the middle of the night. They can smile and laugh about it now, but not at the time. Many times, Clay and Nicole bring their parents with them on their trips. They rent a house or villa with enough space for everyone. It is a great way to spend time together and to thank both their moms and Nicole’s stepfather for all the support they give throughout the year helping with the boys. They recently spent a week in Hilton Head Island. Although it was not far away, it was a welcome change of scenery. For Spring Break, they have a trip planned to go to Disney. They are hoping and praying it will be safe for them to go!

Just as their time apart after dating in high school allowed Clay and Nicole time for growth and maturity, the years spent dating proved to be beneficial, giving them peace of mind knowing their relationship had a strong foundation. The past months being home has given them the opportunity of more time together as a couple and as a family, which they view as priceless!

This article was featured in the February 2021 issue of Carolina Bay Neighbors magazine.


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