Who doesn’t enjoy a good love story? And here’s one that includes an Easter-themed scavenger hunt, anonymous gifts left at the workplace – yes, it’s Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC) – and (spoiler alert) a symphony of synchronized pagers on the couple’s wedding day. For longtime Prescott residents, there’s even a first date at the old Maude’s Restaurant on Montezuma Street.
The story begins in 1987 when Stephanie – who was visiting from Washington, D.C. – fell in love with Prescott.
“I know exactly where I was,” said Stephanie. “I was standing in front of Courthouse Plaza looking up and down Gurley Street and I said, ‘Yep, this is it.’”
Mark, a police officer, had a similar experience when he first visited Prescott in his mid-twenties.
“Prescott’s my home,” said the Midwest transplant. “It’s great to have spent your career in the community that you retire in.”
It was 1992 when the couple met at YRMC.
“The police used to cruise by just to make sure everybody was safe,” Stephanie said.
“It was a place where they had somebody you could talk to who was actually awake,” Mark said with a smile.
Stephanie and Mark had things in common – their favorite beverage was Diet Coke and each had visited Switzerland at the same time. It was a good opening, and Mark took it. Soon, Diet Cokes started showing up on Stephanie’s desk at work, and she knew exactly who was behind them.
“There were ulterior motives,” Mark admitted.
They became friends, hiking and backpacking together in Strawberry and Payson. Three years later, Mark finally got the nerve to invite Stephanie on a date. They had breakfast at Maude’s after their shifts ended. They clicked so well that their breakfast almost became lunch. The restaurant manager had to ask them to leave because other customers needed their table.
A month later, Mark invited Stephanie to dinner, sending flowers to her door before he arrived.
“I’m on the phone immediately to one of my nurse friends from YRMC,” said Stephanie. “‘He sent me flowers what am I gonna do?’ She assured me that it was okay.”
And she was right. Mark was romantic, but also fun. He concocted an elaborate Easter Bunny scavenger hunt that took Stephanie all over Prescott and Prescott Valley – a grocery store, florist, YRMC – to ask for her next clue.
“Every place I went, I had to ask, ‘Are you the Easter Bunny?’ and then the person would give me a plastic Easter egg with the next clue.”
Mark got Stephanie into running, 10Ks, half and full marathons. YRMC sponsored the couple in a Ragnar 24-hour relay involving 12 people, 200 miles and no sleep. They camped in Bryce Canyon National Park and at Lake Powell, which became a favorite destination for the couple.
It was so special, in fact, that the pair chose Lake Powell as the setting for their September 4, 1997 wedding. It was a beautifully simple ceremony, but comical, too, with the bride nearly wearing workout clothes and flip flops, because the maid of honor (who had the wedding gown) was late. The groom and best man were dressed in black pants, white shirts and Looney Tunes ties (because Mark’s a cartoon fan).
Mark had vowed to his friends the 5 p.m. ceremony would last no longer than 20 minutes, and at 5:20 p.m. with the Justice of the Peace two minutes shy of pronouncing, “You may kiss the bride,” dozens of pagers buzzed.
“We had a really good time; it was a really fun wedding,” Stephanie remembered.
Stephanie and Mark Fricke have built a life of love, fun and mutual respect for their occupations. Now retired from the police department, Mark is a firearms instructor who travels the country to teach courses.
“It was easy to be married to a police officer because I understood the shift work,” said Stephanie. “I understood his life was not his own sometimes because we both worked weird shifts. We worked on holidays, which to us is a day that you don’t happen to be working, but you could be.”
These days, when Mark’s home, he’s Mr. Fix-It around the house and also cooks, cleans and does the grocery shopping. Mark grinned and said, “She keeps me in the lifestyle I’m accustomed to.”
Now, pour yourself a Diet Coke and let’s toast the happy couple’s upcoming wedding anniversary.