Sweetheart Wayne Peterson says wife Ardith is his ‘second savior’
EPHRAIM—Although he was hesitant at first, Wayne Peterson says he is grateful he courted his “sweet darling” Ardith Peterson, claiming it brought him two saviors, Jesus Christ, and a wife who, with love and patience, pulled him away from a “fast-track downhill.”
The Ephraim LDS Institute recognizes one couple each year who “exemplify the LDS standards of marriage and family.” On Friday, Feb. 10, the Petersons, who live in Ephraim, were honored with the institute’s 40th Sweetheart Award.
Wayne and Ardith met when mutual friends Ted and Ethel Thomson arranged a blind date after Wayne returned from Germany, where he had served in the U.S. Army.
Their first date consisted of a drive from Levan to Ephraim and back. They continued dating. The two loved to dance to live music outdoors and drove to dances all around Central Utah— until Wayne found out Ardith was only 17.
Wayne, who was 22, was worried about the legality of their age gap. He broke off the relationship.
“When my dad broke it off with mom, he was thinking two words: Jail bait,” said Trent Peterson, son of Wayne and Ardith, who spoke at the forum.
Trent says it was a pretty amazing coincidence that his parents ended up together, considering some of the circumstances. Wayne had received an attractive offer to stay in the Army to teach marksmanship but decided to go home instead.
Meanwhile, Ardith had fallen in love with the piano and dreamed of being a concert pianist. She graduated from Juab High School in the spring of 1954 and had a scholarship to BYU. But she still had thoughts about Wayne, who lived in Ephraim, so she decided to go to Snow College.
That fall, Ardith invited Wayne to a girls’ preference dance at Snow, and he decided if she was old enough to go to college, she was old enough to date.
Trent says he pictures Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman” playing in the background the first time Wayne saw Ardith again after their breakup.
“I like to picture my dad at that time with cuffed jeans, rolled up sleeves, a slicked back ducktail haircut and a toothpick in his mouth,” Trent said.
That girls’ preference dance was the beginning of a two-year courtship for the couple, who were married in the Manti Temple on June 22, 1956. They have now been married more than 60 years.
After the couple were reunited, Wayne used his GI bill money from the Army to attend Central Utah Vocational School in Provo. After he graduated, he and Ardith returned to Ephraim.
Wayne took a job with Hyland Dairy and delivered milk products to doors and local stores for 20 years. He later worked for Moroni Feed Co. for 30 years.
After graduating from Snow and with support from Wayne, Ardith went to BYU and earned her music degree. She worked at Snow College for 20 years and also taught piano.
Wayne was raised in a non-active LDS family, but Ardith was an active member of the church.
“After marriage, it took Wayne a bit to become active in the church,” Ardith said.
Wayne credits Ardith for his commitment to his religion.
“I have had two saviors,” Wayne said. “Jesus Christ and Ardith, my sweet darling. If she hadn’t come along, I wouldn’t be here now. I was on a fast-track downhill, but she had patience with me.”
The couple have served the church in many capacities. They were missionaries at the Polynesian Cultural Center and the Laie Hawaii Temple. Wayne has served as an Elders Quorum president, High Priest group leader, and as a temple worker since 1998.
Ardith served as a Relief Society president, a Gospel Doctrine teacher, a temple worker and in various musical callings, including the director of the LD Singers for 10 years at the Ephraim Institute.
She has accompanied numerous programs and choirs in the area, including The Messiah and LDS Singers, for more than 50 years.
The couple has three children: Trent Peterson (Annette), Tamra Ashworth and Andria Munson (Zane). They are also the proud grandparents of 11 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
“What could I say to improve your marriage in five minutes?” Ardith asked the forum audience. “Bring out the best in each other. Avoid confrontation. Figure out what makes your partner feel loved.
She added, “I learned to go to a rodeo; he learned to go to a symphony.”
Wayne enjoys hunting, fishing, animals and gardening. Ardith likes quilting, scrapbooking and, of course, music.