Destrehan couple set to accomplish something only .1 percent achieve

Irvin and Shirley Naquin

For Irvin Naquin, 92, and his wife Shirley Naquin, 89, the last day of October this year carries a special significance well beyond Halloween: it will mark the couple’s 70th year of marriage, a milestone few married couples ever achieve.

The Naquins started their lives off together as high school sweethearts, first meeting at Assumption High School. Sometime around Shirley’s 10th grade year, when Irvin was a high school senior, Assumption Parish school officials decided to funnel students from three smaller area schools to create one larger school in Napoleonville, a school transition that led to their first encounter.

The pair later married in 1953 on October 31, Halloween day, shortly after Irvin returned home after serving in the Korean War.

“He was in the Army, and we decided the first good time after he got out – that would be our wedding date,” Shirley Naquin said of her marriage at 19 years old to the then 22-year-old Irvin. “At that time, there was nothing going on as far as Halloween was concerned, especially out in the country, so that’s how we got to be married on Halloween day.”

They would later move a handful of times to various locations mostly in the New Orleans area, finally settling in Destrehan. Together the couple went on to raise 10 children together. Wanting education and their Catholic faith to become key parts of their children’s lives, on Irvin’s machinist salary the couple scrimped and saved, managing to put all 10 of their children through local area private Catholic schools.

“They worked very, very hard to find extra jobs and opportunities so that we could go to Catholic schools,” daughter Sandra Chambers, 55, recalled in a recent interview; Chambers came into the world as number nine of the 10 children. “Growing up, we didn’t realize that we were not a wealthy family, because we still took really big, frequent vacations, but we would do things like camping…we would go camping several times a year.”

Irvin and Shirley Naquin pose with their evenly matched brood of 10 children – five girls, five boys.

In an age where national divorce rates hover between 35 and 50 percent, the local couple seems to have beaten major odds together. According to the United States Census Bureau, only 6 percent of married couples make it to their 50th wedding anniversary. Couples like the Naquins that make it as far as their 70th wedding anniversary are part of an even more elite group: just 0.1 percent of marriages in the U.S. remain intact after 70 years.

The pair weathered numerous ups and downs during their seven decades together, including family health scares and time when Irvin worked as a machinist at local area manufacturing-related plants.

Like many workers at the time, Irvin was nearing retirement age in his 50s at large employer American Can Company, but due to corporate belt-tightening he was in danger of being laid off before accumulating a certain number of hours needed to qualify for a full pension. Given he had 10 children to support, his fellow coworkers came to his rescue, hatching a scheme to ensure he got enough hours to meet pension qualification requirements. It was a heartwarming moment in their lives his wife Shirley said she has never forgotten.

“All of his coworkers decided that they were going to [forego] all the overtime and pass it on to Irvin, so that he could get 100 percent accredited as far as his pension was concerned – that was very important when you have 10 children,” Shirley Naquin commented.

After 70 years of marriage, Naquin’s advice for the recently married hoping to make it just as far as she did was relevant to modern couples, centered on avoiding the trap of material goods.

“Don’t worry so much about things,” Naquin advised. “People have to have everything nowadays…when we got married, we did without, and we didn’t miss it because we were happy with each other.”


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