Delaware's Pete du Pont remembered as 'epitome of an excellent governor'

By Craig Anderson
Posted 4/29/22

WILMINGTON — He was a skilled politician and loving dad, a jokester at times and an ardent Philadelphia Flyers fan.

There was a familiar refrain from all who shared their memories at the …

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Delaware's Pete du Pont remembered as 'epitome of an excellent governor'


WILMINGTON — He was a skilled politician and loving dad, a jokester at times and an ardent Philadelphia Flyers fan.

There was a familiar refrain from all who shared their memories at the Governor Pete du Pont Memorial Service Friday afternoon in The Playhouse at Rodney Square.

The service was a long time in coming — while the former governor died on May 8, 2021 at age 86, COVID precautions delayed the tribute session until this week.

There was no shortage of personal remembrances and respects paid from those whose lives he had touched.

Nationally known columnist and author George Will delivered the eulogy for his longtime friend, painting him as a unifier.

“As Pete understood, our political adversaries can and should be friends,” Mr. Will said. “... Pete did it right and had fun all the way.

“Because Pete was a cheerful malcontent, he was a happy warrior ...”

Former Delaware Gov. Michael Castle, who served as an usher but didn’t take the stage, shared his thoughts as well, saying “In my mind, he is the epitome of an excellent governor and maybe the best governor Delaware has ever had.

“We had some financial problems and he took office and he worked his way through all of it and put a lot of different aspects in place that are still in place today.”

And of Gov. du Pont the political unifier, Mr. Castle said, “He was, first of all smart. Secondly, he knew full well how to relate to Democrats as well as Republicans and that made a difference.

“We had pretty much of a Democrat senate the whole time he was governor and he was able to pull it all together and that is something, I think, that set an example for all of the rest of those who followed.

“I believe that he was a real stalwart in the position and we’re lucky to have had him.”

On a personal level, according to Mr. Castle, Mr. du Pont “First of all had a sense of humor.

“Secondly, he was very generous in the way he dealt with people. He was, I think, well liked by all the elected officials in the state of Delaware.

“He treated everybody with respect and for that he deserves a great deal of credit.”

During the service Mr. du Pont’s wife Elise was joined by their children Elise, Pierre, Thère and Ben, all who shared fond memories of their dad. Their grandchildren sat at the front of the venue as well.

As part of a series of recorded remembrances by many on a big screen, Mrs du Pont shared that “He was always making a joke out of everything.

“He had the quickest mind of anybody I ever know. He really could take a circumstance, turn it backwards and make you laugh.

“He could make anyone laugh and that was just a gift to have.”

According to his daughter Elise, “I think Dad’s legacy is innovation, the ability to think about things a little bit differently and do what actually works.

“I think those two things in combination will be what he leaves behind.”

Mr. du Pont’s youngest son, Ben, said his father believed that the country was founded on opportunities, which is “why it will prosper and why it will prevail.

“All us should embrace that opportunity that our country has given us and go out into the world and try to make it just a little bit better.”

Ben du Pont quipped his father took up bowling, which he said was not a typical sport for somebody educated at Harvard and Princeton.

“I asked him why (and) he said ‘I made more friends and gained more votes than anything else I have done.’”

During his time at the podium, Gov. John Carney noted that “Pete pulled our state out of (an) economic crisis. He instilled fiscal discipline, he restored confidence.

“Most importantly, he set a new standard for how we treat each other in this state and changed the expectations about ourselves.

“Some call it the ‘Delaware Way’ others the ‘Return Day ethic.’ Whatever you call it, it just meant working together to get things done.

“It’s something we take for granted now but it was a novel concept when Pete became governor.”

Additionally, in a release, the Pete du Pont Freedom foundation encapsulated his lifetime mission and impact:.

“Throughout Pete’s public life – as a state legislator, member of Congress, governor, presidential candidate, commentator and columnist – he knew the importance of government fostering, not frustrating, innovation and the economy. He knew that debating and pushing policies aimed at expanding the economic pie were far better uses of time than arguments about how to divide that pie.

His view was based on a realization that, with each innovation generated and pushed by individuals in the market, jobs would increase and prosperity could be broadly shared.”

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