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Wed 45 years, Utah Catholic couple shares story as spouses, best friends and business partners

By Christina Young
January 2nd, 2008
Intermountain Catholic (

BOUNTIFUL, Utah (Intermountain Catholic) - “People try to get me to join different things all the time, but the truth is I like spending time with Phil,” said Shirley Hopkins. Phil and Shirley have been married 45 years, and they are members of St. Olaf Parish, Bountiful.

“Shirley is my best friend, and we have been best friends throughout our marriage,” said Phil. “It is very romantic how we met, but I’ll let Shirley tell the story.”

“We met at the University of Cincinnati,” said Shirley. “We were both freshmen in the College of Applied Arts. He was studying to be a graphic designer and I wanted to be a fashion designer. The first year we had common classes and they sat us alphabetically, so we sat next to each other. His name was Hopkins and mine was Higgins. So I sat right next to him.

“I always say I knew from the very beginning that he was for me,” said Shirley. “It took him a little longer. We met in September and he didn’t ask me out until Christmas. In the meantime, he had told me he had a girlfriend in Philadelphia. I think he was trying to discourage me. Phil had been in the U.S. Navy four years, and I thought that was so neat because all the other freshmen in our class were 18, my age, and Phil was 22. We just started out as really good friends.”

“We were both interested in art, so on our breaks we would pack our lunch and go to the Cincinnati Art Museum,” said Phil. “We dated for a year and got married the following March.”

“We both made the Dean’s List, but we decided to drop out of college to get married,” said Shirley. “Our friends tried to persuade us to stay in school, but we didn’t listen. I had no skills so I could not support us while he went to school, so he started working. We had three kids by the time I was 26. I was a stay-at-home wife and mother.”

Business success

Phil went on to build a successful career as an art director working in advertising agencies. While still in Ohio, Phil was accepted into the Cincinnati Art Club and it was there, in 1979, he held his first one man art show. It was also in 1979, they and their children moved to California to open Phil’s own graphics arts business.

In May of 1985, Phil formed his own company Phil Hopkin’s Art, which is now Arch Creative. Also in 1985, Shirley started working for Phil helping him with the marketing aspect of his job.

“We work together. We are self-taught on our computers and have learned a lot since 1985,” said Phil. “In about 1995, we had to switch to computers in order to survive in the graphic design business.

“I would like to point out that I have always liked to draw and was interested in fine art, our boys painted, and Shirley is good at art too,” said Phil. “But my family really like it when I paint.”

“We love him to paint,” said Shirley. “He does not like the marketing part of his job or to trying to get into galleries, so that is my job. I send out slides to see if people will want him in their gallery, and then if they do, we have to get all his work together and ship it to them. He has been in many galleries. If you don’t market yourself, nobody knows you are out there. So that is a big job.”

Phil was born and raised an Episcopalian in the rural countryside east of Cincinnati. It was during his early childhood that he discovered magazine covers and illustrations and was inspired to become an artist.

“He was born an artist,” said Shirley, who was also raised in Cincinnati.

Phil’s conversion story

The year before Phil and Shirley were married, Phil decided to become Catholic.

“When I was 12 years old, I got to see Pope Pius XII, and then I spent the last part of my time in the Navy stationed in the Mediterranean for two years. I went to the Vatican, was able to tour some of the great classic antiquities of Italy, France, Spain, and Greece, building my knowledge of art history first hand, and I realized the Catholic church had been around for a very long time. I was also impressed by the Catholic guys on the ship.”

“He was looking for something, and then he met me, and I was Catholic,” said Shirley.

“It was easy,” said Phil.

Throughout Phil’s and Shirley’s marriage, religion has been important to them. They raised their children Catholic, their boys were altar servers, and they rarely ever miss Mass.

“Our religion has gotten us through everything,” said Phil. “I have been a convert for 46 years, and that is practically a life time. That is one of the reasons why I am so interested in and am a part of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) program.”

“For me, just to see these adult people in various stages of their lives, make this big decision to join the Catholic religion something I have always taken for granted,” said Shirley. “I was born Catholic. To me it is very humbling to see what some people go through in order to become a Catholic. They have to deal with the annulment process and other problems, and they stick with it. I like being in RCIA, it is very rewarding.

A parish called home

“When you are raising your children, I don’t think you really have a chance to do much with the church. We appreciate it much more now that we are older and we have more time to give to the church in Eucharist Adoration, RCIA, and Phil is in the Knights of Columbus. We have moved 17 times in our marriage, and we really feel like this is the best parish in which we have ever been. I hope we never have to move again. We have been in this parish for eight years.

“We have three grown children, of whom we are very proud, and five grandchildren with whom we love to spend time,” said Shirley.

“They are all doing very well,” said Phil.

“Our daughter, Melissa, has her own public relations company in Salt Lake City,” said Shirley. “Our son, John, is a graphic designer and has his own business in California. Our youngest son, Mark, has been in the U.S. Navy for 17 years and has made it his career. He is in military police and works in special operations. Mark was recently wounded, and Phil had to go over to Hawaii to take care of him for a month. All of our children got married in the Catholic Church, and we are very happy about that.”

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