Although 61 years have passed since Bob and Gail Phillips exchanged wedding vows, Phillips maintains his wife looks as lovely to him today as she did over half a century ago.
This past weekend, the 87-year-old published a touching tribute to his bride, 79, in the Charlotte Observer to mark the benchmark anniversary.
"Dear Gail," it begins, "I look at newspaper pictures of new brides every Sunday. I'm searching. I want to see if there is now or ever will be another bride as lovely as you. Been doing that since June 27, 1953."
But despite decades of such careful examination, Phillips reports that he "already know[s] the answer" to his question: "There is not -- and never will be to me -- your equal in loveliness."
Phillips told the Charlotte Observer that the pair met at Landis High School in Rowan County, North Carolina, on his first day as a teacher and her first morning as a student. Eight years her senior, he taught her for two years before the military called on him to enlist.
Once he completed his yearlong service, Phillips returned to Rowan County and told ABC News that he found a teenager who had "matured in every possible way" during his absence: "She became a beautiful person--inwardly and outwardly."
Phillips wondered whether he would be able to support a family and children: "But I thought to myself, 'If not now, when? If not Gail, nobody.'"
In his letter, Phillips elaborated: "[Y]ou were the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. The delightful truth is that you still are. Happy anniversary, sweetheart. You've made me and you keep me the happiest and most grateful husband any bride could ever know."
The announcement garnered a flurry of admiring responses from well-wishers online and the interest of romantics worldwide. In a comment printed in a virtual "guestbook," one woman commended the longstanding union: "It is a good inspiration for the rest of us."
The parents of three pronounced the unexpected attention "overwhelming" and said they were "honored" to have their story shared.
Asked to spill the secrets of a happy marriage, Gail Phillips piped up: "Be good to one another. I want what's best for him and he wants what's best for me."
Beyond loving each other, Bob Phillips asserted that the couple "purely" likes each other.
"Gail is such a likeable person," he said. "Nobody could help just feeling good in presence."
In a renewal of sorts, Phillips concluded the missive with this sign-off: "I'd gladly welcome another 61 years of marriage with you. Beyond that I pray we will spend eternity together."
"All my love," he pledged. "Bob."
- Family & Relationships