Exotic Jobs, Locales Lead Arbaugh To Payson



If you've always thought that the job title "secretary" sounded pretty dull, then you've never chatted with Peggy Arbaugh about her life.

For instance: Arbaugh's very first job, right out of business school and at the dawn of World War II, was as a secretary in the Army Service Forces' personal affairs division in the Pentagon where she just so happened to arrive on June 6, 1944, aka D-Day.

Two years later, Arbaugh was not only a secretary in the photographic department of National Geographic in the years following World War II, she was also one of the internationally beloved magazine's limousine-shuttled models.

"If they wanted somebody for a picture in Washington D.C.," Arbaugh recalls, "they would call one of us girls. We would be driven out (to the location) in a limousine because we didn't have cars; it was too close to the end of the war."

Although Arbaugh was recruited for a number of photos in this fashion, she still doesn't know if any actually appeared in print.

"I never found out if they used any of the pictures with me," she said. "Not too much longer after that I got pregnant and left the Geographic. I didn't see any of the magazines for a long time because when my husband, Bill, went into the service, I followed."

She certainly did. And among the exotic locales she followed him to was Panama, where they stayed for five years because Bill was stationed there and then another nine years because they just couldn't tear themselves away from the beaches and the boats and the people.

But they eventually came home, Arbaugh said, because "we both decided that we liked our own country best."

Born in Wheeling, West Virginia, and brought up in nearby Charleston, Arbaugh experienced a "wonderful childhood. I was the youngest of four girls, and they kind of took me through life."

It was Bill, though, who first took her through the Grand Canyon State.

"We first came to Arizona in 1951, while we were on our way to California to see Bill's family," she said. "I had a sister who moved there in 1956, so we came back every couple of years and watched the Valley grow."

In 1979, the Arbaugh's considered moving to Phoenix, "but it was getting too big for small-towners like Bill and me," she said. "We asked my daughter what she felt was the best place in the state for us, and she gave us a list of seven towns."

What were they?

"I can't tell you," Arbaugh says with a laugh, "because we stopped after we saw the first one on the list: Payson."

Bill died in 1998 after he and Peggy had shared 52 years of marriage and produced five children, seven grandchildren and one great-grandson.

Today, even at the age of 76, Arbaugh is as busy as she has ever been. She's a volunteer in both the Payson Public Library and the Payson High School library, and she also serves as the librarian for her church library ("You can tell I like books," she said). She is a docent at the Rim Country Museum.

And as an active Republican, she has lately been all over town registering voters because, she said, "Everyone needs to vote and put the right people in office. And if they don't bother to vote, they shouldn't complain."

Somehow, Arbaugh manages to sandwich into all of these activities her passion for tracking down her own genealogical history. At the end of September she'll travel to the east coast to attend a seminar on genealogy in Maryland and Virginia, where the bulk of her ancestors lived.

"I had an older sister, Alice, who very much into genealogy," Arbaugh said, explaining how she got hooked into this passion. "The rest of us didn't have any interest until she died and we realized that somebody had to take it up."

That initial disinterest may have been genetic.

"When we were young and would talk about genealogy at the dining room table, we'd ask my daddy, 'What about your genealogy?' And he would say, 'Well, I was interested in it until I found a horse thief and decided I'd better stop."


Name: Peggy P. Arbaugh

Occupation: Retired secretary

Age: 76; that's not fair.

Birthplace: Wheeling, West Virginia

Family: Five children, seven grandchildren, one great-grandson.

Inspiration: Sunrises and sunsets.

Greatest feat: I worked for National Geographic magazine after World War II.

My favorite hobby or leisure activity is ... walking and writing.

The person in history I'd most like to meet is ... George Washington and Robert E. Lee.

Luxury defined: Sailing on a clear day, landing at a white beach.

Dream vacation spot: Alaska. We've been there twice.

Why Payson? It's pretty and the climate is wonderful all year.

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