A Pretty Girl And A Wild Lad Fell In Love


There was major flirting over the grill counter at the newly opened McDonald's restaurant in 1981.

Patty Arbaugh, a senior at Payson High School, took orders and John Wisner, a five months' early graduate of PHS, cooked.


Patty Arbaugh and John Wisner were on their way to the McDonald's restaurant Christmas party in 1981.

The flirting led to the events flirting often leads to -- dating, a first kiss, marriage with its good times and bad, moving away, returning to one's roots and having a family.

"I was kind of surprised when she agreed to go out with me," John said.

"He mocked me for being in the home-coming parade," Patty said.

One fall day when John lamented, "There is no place in this town to take a pretty girl," Patty suggested hiking.

"Are you telling me to take a hike?" John asked.

On Oct. 9, "the most gorgeous day ever," they hiked along Horton Springs under trees in a riot of fall color.

John recounted the Bill Murray movie "Stripes" in vivid detail.

"It was like seeing the movie," Patty said.

The new couple talked and talked. The talking and laughter would become a hallmark of their life together.

However, the romantic path of Patty and John led through nay-sayers and prices to pay.


Payson High School sweethearts, John and Patty Wisner as they appear a few years after meeting during their school years.

Opposites attract and that was true of John and Patty. She was quiet, he liked to party. Their friends predicted the relationship would not last.

A PHS administrator, whose name the Wisners remain mum on, told Patty, "It's not in your best interest to go out with John."

The unasked for advice "cinched it" for Patty.

The price John paid to date Mr. Arbaugh's daughter was chores around the house. John remembers carrying shingles to the roof and hauling wood for the fireplace.

John and Patty dated while John attended Mesa Community College and Patty, Arizona State University.

During ASU football games, John sneaked over fences and hid from campus security in between the tubas, so he could sit beside his trombone-playing girl in the stands.

Then, in 1983, John enlisted in the Navy. All through boot camp he thought about spending the rest of his life with Patty, if she waited.

She did and John decided to propose in the front yard at his parents' house.

His mother gave John a family heirloom ring to give Patty and he rehearsed many times how he was going to pop the question.

"I walked outside, I was nervous and I knew that I just had to say it," John said.

But, before he could drop to his knees, Patty ruined his careful rehearsing: "What's for dinner?"

"Green beans and ham. Will you marry me?" he said.

Patty said, "yes."

Patty's father and brother Bob were adamant that she complete her degree before walking down the aisle. John returned to his tour of duty as a radio man.

Patty moved to San Diego after graduation and took a job as a teacher to be near John.

They exchanged vows in Payson, Jan. 4, 1986, at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, then returned to their first home in a San Diego suburb.

Their firstborn, Wesley, was a toddler when the Rodney King verdict sparked the Los Angeles riots in 1993 and they realized they wanted to raise their family in the Rim Country.

There are common sense secrets to keeping love alive.

"Really talk every day. We talk about the town, the kids, our finances, our house, our jobs, politics, our future," John said.

"Marry your best friend," is what Patty always tells her three boys, Wesley, Joseph and Jonathan.

"Know when to say you are sorry... I know when I'm going to have to say sorry before the sentence is half out of my mouth," John said.

A healthy sense of the comedic is also important in a marriage.

That is why one of their favorite movies is "The Princess Bride."

"It is true love at the expense of a lot of humor," Patty said.

So, when John tells their boys, "Have fun storming the castle," or Patty quotes, "I don't think that means what you think that means," laughter results.

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