How We Met: David and Joni

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MACKENZIE REISS | Bigfork Eagle David and Joni Isaman pose for a photo inside the Mountain Lake Lodge where David works in maintenance and Joni mans the front desk. The couple first met in Hawaii and recently celebrated their 21st wedding anniversary.

One fateful night, 25 years ago, Joni Isaman took a good look in the mirror and said, “Tonight is the night.” She was 35, single, and convinced that Mr. Right was going to cross her path that evening. It wasn’t a particularly unusual night on the town with friends, other than they were celebrating Ocktoberfest. She ponied up to her favorite local watering hole, Tres Hombres, and raised her glass to cheer the iconic German holiday.

That’s when she noticed David.

“When I saw him I was like, ‘Oh my god, that’s him,’” Isaman said, who was then living in Hawaii.

Isaman gave a toast in his direction and soon enough, they began chatting away.

As the night wore on, patrons fizzled out, leaving just a handful of customers at the bar. Isaman was among friends, and started doling out shoulder massages.

“It’s just kind of my thing,” she said.

She started doing them when she worked at the options exchange in Chicago to help improve productivity among the trade checkers. The practice was so effective that her employer boosted her salary by $10,000.

When she finished with David, he put his hand on hers and said, “I can’t tell you the last time somebody did this for me.”

They had a moment — an honest connection — but in the flurry of the evening, Isaman never got his number. She didn’t worry too much because he’d told her he lived just down the road. She was certain she’d see him again.

But it would be months before they reconnected.

She drove by Tres Hombres every now and then to see if he happened to stop by and finally, one night he was there.

This time, she got the digits and called him the following day to invite him on a date.

“Our first date was amazing —we just talked for like three hours,” she said. “Similar background, similar religious preferences, everything — it just meshed.”

They dated for the next four years, and although Joni was certain she’d found “The One,” it took David a little longer to catch up.

“I knew 10 days after we started dating that he was the one. It took him four years,” she said.

After they’d been dating a year, she decided to plant the seed of marriage, albeit in a nontraditional fashion.

She found a small, gold Playboy bunny charm and presented it to David on Sadie Hawkins Day.

“I said, ‘David, because it’s Sadie Hawkins Day, I am asking you to marry me,’” she recalled. “What I want to do is to take this Playboy Bunny charm as a symbol of your bachelorhood and when you’re ready to get married, you’ll give it back to me.”

It was far from the typical approach to solidifying their commitment, but then again, they weren’t an average couple. A few years later, David returned the charm in exchange her hand in marriage and they wed at a scenic ranch in Hawaii.

“I had to promise in my wedding vows to support his surfing, his motorcycle riding and his dirt biking ….and he had to support my spiritual nature,” Joni said with a smile.

They also made a pledge never to get a divorce — that they’d weather whatever came there way, no matter what.

“There’s just that connection there. We have been through so much, thick and thin,” Joni said.

But what began as a whirlwind romance has stood the test of time.

They saw each other through multiple relocations, caring for ailing family members and the raising of their two children.

“We just celebrated our 21st anniversary,” Joni said. »

This is the third of three articles in the Bigfork Eagle’s “How We Met” series, celebrating local love stories in honor of Valentine’s Day.

Editor Mackenzie Reiss can be reached at (406) 758-4433 or

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