Hockessin couple married for over 66 years

Ask Phil and Shirley Gardner about the key to a long-lasting, successful marriage nearly seven decades long, and it comes down to two basic elements.

“For us it’s been about mutual respect, and a common religion,” Phil Gardner said. “We’re very active in church, and it’s been one of the keys to our success.”

Shirley agrees, also adding a mutual joy for travelling (although he enjoys it more than she), and meeting new people in the process, as well as a mutual faith in god, fostered through their church, Ebenezer United Methodist in Newark.

The Gardners’ story is a piece of classic, post-war Americana. They met in middle school, started dating in high school, and married when Phil was in the Navy.

As he busied himself at college, Shirley worked for the Atlas Power Plant.

Phil’s subsequent 33 years with DuPont kept the couple on the move from state to state, until finally settling in the Newark area for 40-plus years.

Now both 85 (“I’m three months older, and he never lets me forget it,” quipped Shirley), the couple has settled in at the Summit Retirement Community in Hockessin, where they enjoy playing bridge, attending bible study, and visiting with friends and family.

“I’m 30 years into my retirement, and I worked for 33 years,” Phil said. “So I’ve just about broken even.”

Shirley adds that they also try to keep up with the numerous activities happening daily at the Summit.

“You’re as busy as you want to be, but it’d wear you out if you try and do all the things that are offered,” she said.

They also keep busy visiting with their three children, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren when they’re able.

“We’ve certainly been very blessed,” Shirley said.

Divorce is Down in De.

Along with the hope a long-lasting marriage like Phil and Shirley's inspires, there’s more good news for married couples in Delaware.

A recent study released by Lending Tree’s QuoteWizard analyzed National Centers for Health Statistics data on marriage and divorce rates in the United States, and found that Delaware had a 22.22 percent decrease in divorce rates over the last 10 years.

That makes Delaware the 13th-best for decrease of divorces in the country.

“We compared marriage and divorce rates over a 10-year period per 1000 people from 2009 to 2018 to find the rate of increase or decrease in marriage and divorce rates in each state,” according to a press release on the study.

The report also states that national marriage rates have decreased by 7.74 percent over the last 10 years, while divorce rates are on the decline by 19.55 percent in the same period.

Mississippi, New Mexico and Massachusetts saw the largest increase in marriage rates, while Illinois, Kansas and West Virginia saw the largest decrease in divorce rates, according to the report.

The report notes that since marriage is on the decline nationally, marriage rates are also outpaced by the divorce rate.

“Less people are getting married over the last 10 years and therefore less people are getting divorced,” the report, written by Adam Johnson, states. “However, with a decline in the divorce rate outpacing the marriage rate you could assume more married couples are sticking together. Chivalry isn’t dead after all.”