Gwen Guerke Seeks New Adventures

Gwen Guerke (right) receiving the 2013 Citizen of the Year award from Chamber President Mike Kazala.
Gwen Guerke (right) receiving the 2013 Citizen of the Year award from Chamber President Mike Kazala.

As big an influence on the Milford community as the individuals she reported on for the past 35 years, Gwen Guerke will soon leave her post as Editor of The Milford Chronicle to pursue new ventures. After telling the stories of Milford for the last three decades, she looks forward to continuing to teach the next generation at Delaware Technical & Community College.

Born in the MIlford Memorial Hospital in downtown Milford, Gwen became the fifth generation of Milfordian in her family. Attending all twelve years in the Milford School District, Guerke graduated from Milford High School in 1965, the same year that the first African Americans graduated from the school including Charles Hammond, Joseph Clark and Greg Showell. Others among that class included Randy Holland, Dr. Robert Masten, Howard Burris, Buddy Betts and Sharon Bailey. Gwen attended and graduated from the University of Delaware with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and minor in History. After teaching at Holy Angels Elementary in Newark, Delaware for three years, she retuned to Milford in 1976 and began writing for the Milford Chronicle two years later.

“I was officially brought on board by Publisher Ted Towson, whose family owned the business. I thought it would be fun for a little while and I remember one of my first stories being about Milford graduation.” At time the Milford Chronicle building was located on SW Front Street in downtown Milford, which housed a writing staff and printing press. Before the age of computers Gwen used a company typewriters, learned to process film and hands-on page layout and design before the paper went to press.

In 1989 Gwen was asked to work for the Delaware State News as a Features Editor where she began to report on human interest stories in lower Delaware. She began writing a column known as Fork In The Road, that featured local restaurants and how they interacted with the larger community. In 1993 the famous Tell Gwen column was started, rising quickly in popularity. According to Gwen, in 1994 Independent Newspapers Inc. purchased downstate papers including editions from the cities of Milford, Harringtonton and Seaford, as she began to work between several of their papers based on their needs. Regardless of the name of the weekly edition on the front page, Gwen enjoyed meeting local people from around Kent and Sussex Counties.

“What I enjoyed the most were the people I met and interviewed,” commented Gwen. “Working for a newspaper you get to see the good, bad and the ugly. I chose to focus on the good. What was really exciting is when you went to cover a story and something surprising, something you did not know came out in the interview, I really enjoyed the surprises.”

Over the last 35 years, Gwen has enjoyed the rare opportunity of watching people from the local community grow up right before her eyes; moving through school, graduating and starting careers and families. In addition to individuals, Guerke has watched downtown Milford grow from the seventies to current day and believes that the town has continued to move forward in a positive direction.

“In 1978 during my first years as a reporter downtown Milford was a ‘ghost town’ and had a very ramshackle feel. If someone told me then that we would have an art gallery, booming farmers market, beautiful library and Riverwalk, it would be hard to imagine.

She dedicates the progress to an ongoing commitment by active Milford individuals and groups as well as the increase of new residents that began to invest time and money. She states that the City of Milford got behind this push and development took the place of vacant buildings. Her favorite additions to the Milford area since she began reporting on downtown include the Mispillion Art League and the restoration of the Vineyard Shipyard.

Monday, August 19 will be Gwen Guerke’s last day with The Milford Chronicle as she will increase the number of writing classes she will teach in the Developmental Studies Department at Delaware Technical & Community College. She will also be working part-time in communications for the Food Bank of Delaware Milford branch and part-time at Bayhealth Medical Center in the Marketing Department. Guerke is looking forward to continuing her mentoring work in the Milford School District, which she has been a part of for fifteen years. Gwen is thankful for the relationships she has built with so many Milford residents over her 35-year career.

“Thank you for sharing your lives with me, opening up your hearts and homes,” commented Gwen when asked what she would like to say to the Milford community. “You always opened your arms and welcomed me in, we had some great times.”