By Lindsay Toler
By Chad Garrison
By Brett Koshkin
By RFT Staff
By Lindsay Toler
By Riverfront Times
By Danny Wicentowski
By Pete Kotz
Having polished off the wedding cake that accumulated on 07/07/07, Unreal was shocked to learn that the Show-Me state is home to two communities that sit at opposite poles of the marriage divide: O'Fallon and Independence.
According to the venerable Pew Research Center, O'Fallon, fresh from its victory lap after placing 39th on Money magazine's 2006 "Best Places to Live" poll, boasts a 69 percent marriage rate the highest in the nation.
Meanwhile, folks across the state in Independence registered an 18 percent divorce rate the country's fourth highest.
"I'll be dogged," exclaims a surprised Don Reimal, mayor of Independence. "Our economy is good. We have 160 or 170 churches in town. It's a laid-back community. We're not under a lot of pressure."
Maybe that's the problem. According to U.S. Census data, Independence's population has been stagnant since 1990, changing less than one percentage point. What's more, more than half of all Independencians have lived in the same home for more than five years.
Compare that to wedded O'Fallon, a city that has witnessed its population explode by more than 150 percent since 1990. This is a town with an 89 percent home-ownership rate. That said, only 39 percent of O'Fallinos have lived in the same house for more than five years.
OK. So O'Fallon's growing. Does that explain this city's license to wed?
"I wouldn't even know where to start," says Mary Wilson, the city's public-relations chief. "Like any other city that grows, more and more families are moving in because they find that O'Fallon is a great place to live. The city prides itself on family values and having lots of things to do for families."
Not surprisingly, Mary Wilson is married: "At this point I think I'm at that age where everyone I know has gotten married," she says.
Down but not out, Mayor Reimal says he knows plenty of married folks in his burg.
"I know people that have dated their significant other in high school and been married after high school and are still married today. My secretary is one of 'em; I'm one of 'em. Many of our friends, it's the same thing," says the mayor, who adds that his hands are tied when it comes to keeping his constituency wed. "Our budget's not big enough for me to be paying people to stay married, but I've been married 43 years and I have no desire to break another one in."