Sunday, January 21, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

From This Day: Sheri Jeanette Nichols and Clinton Parker Johnston

A mountaintop proposal in Montenegro. A wedding in Florence, Italy.

Their passion for travel eventually brought Sheri Nichols and Clinton Johnston together, aided by mutual friends who gave them a nudge.

Clinton was working too many hours to focus on meeting people in Tampa when a friend of Sheri's invited both of them to brunch at the old Lime restaurant in Tampa's Hyde Park in November 2012. As the party broke up, someone suggested they exchange phone numbers.

For the next several months, they encountered each other at similar gatherings, and Sheri invited Clinton to another group outing at the 2013 Gasparilla parade in Tampa.

"He seemed adventurous," she said. "He's been a lot of places in the world. There are not many people like that."

Clinton, 47, discovered that Sheri had lived briefly in Saudia Arabia and Germany as a teenager.

"I've always liked to travel a lot," he said. He also admired the fact that, as a single parent, she had brought up her son and daughter, "and they turned out great."

Sheri, a sixth-generation Tampa native, is working on a master's of business administration at Saint Leo University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, and where she works in the admissions office.

That she is an enrollment counselor in the undergraduate program makes her new husband smile.

"I've talked to a lot of admissions officers over the years," he said.

As a younger man, Clinton attended college at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. For two years, starting in 1989, he was stationed on a cutter in St. Petersburg, and the experience left him thinking he might return to the area. He worked in South America and for the U.S. State Department. He earned a master's degree in Latin American economics from New York University, then enrolled in Harvard Law School. After practicing law in New York for six years, he moved to India, where he became an investment banker. The opportunity to run his own firm in the United States arose, and he ended up in Palm Harbor.

Because of all the international time differences, he said, "I wasn't really getting to know anybody," and he again enrolled in school, earning a master's degree in finance at the University of Tampa's College of Business, where he has been an adjunct faculty member since 2010. He is managing director and general counsel at Benchmark International, a boutique investment bank with headquarters in Tampa's West Shore business district.

Together, Sheri said, they visited 11 countries in 2014. Their most memorable journey likely was to Europe, where they attended a friend's wedding in Prague. On that trip, he said, Sheri "just rolled with everything. If things didn't work out as planned, she took it in stride. We were engaged in July after climbing a mountain to a castle overlooking the fiord of Kotor, Montenegro, at sunset."

They made wedding plans over the next several months, working online, and decided to marry during the holiday break so that Sheri's daughter could be her maid of honor.

"People in Italy were so helpful and so nice," Sheri said.

"We had the perfect wedding, weather, and guests from four continents in a palazzo belonging to Salvatore Ferragamo in Florence," Clinton said. The Palazzo Capponi sits on the bank of the River Arno. Their reception took place in the Sesto on Arno, the rooftop restaurant at the Westin Excelsior, with a view of the city at sunset and after-dinner fireworks.

And then it was off to another excursion: Their honeymoon trip was to Venice.

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