November 4, 2004
In each other’s eyes, Highland High School seniors Joe McLarney and Marisa Robson were already king and queen.
However, the 20-year-old McLarney received the surprise of his life last Friday when he was crowned king during the halftime ceremony at the Gilbert school’s homecoming football game.
It was a nice surprise because Robson, his 20-yearold girlfriend of four years, had just been named Homecoming Queen. But in a selfless act, Patrick Huston, a senior football player who was originally crowned king, took the crown off his head and put it on McLarney’s head.
"When I saw Marisa was going to be queen, I kind of felt that Joe should be her king," said the 17-year-old Gilbert resident, who was nominated last year as prince but didn’t win.
Patrick said he wasn’t friends with the couple, but had seen them around school. "I made the right decision," he said. Chelsea Robson, Marisa’s 18-year-old sister, said it was a "really cool" thing when Patrick passed the crown to McLarney.
"People were yelling ‘Give it to Joe. Give it to Joe,’ ’’ said Chelsea Robson, a Highland senior who rallied her friends to nominate her sister and boyfriend. "Then when he gave it to Joe, the crowd went nuts."
No one was as shocked as McLarney during the emotional scene, said his mom, Gerry McLarney.
"It was so touching, it was overwhelming," said Mary Robson, Marisa’s mom.
Now McLarney wears his crown every chance he gets, and Marisa Robson has perfected her hand wave.
"I love to wear my crown at school," said Marisa Robson, who enjoys
cooking, soccer, basketball and the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Next year, the two will come back and crown the next winners.
At 20 years old, the two "super" seniors are in their last year at Highland learning adult life skills. Both born with Down syndrome, McLarney and Robson have known each other since they were babies and attended special needs classes together throughout high school.
They went to prom together, grew up in Mesa together and do most everything together. When together, Robson enjoys tickling McLarney to get the more serious one to laugh. Last Saturday, they enjoyed dancing together at the homecoming dance.
"We had a blast," Robson said. "We danced to the Macarena, YMCA and the Electric Slide."
Both work at Rockin’ R Ranch, a Mesa dinner theater that Robson’s family owns and operates by their home. They help serve food during the chuckwagon barbecue suppers, and Robson performs in the Western stage show along with most of her family.
They also meet together with Christy Withers, an independent contractor and family friend who works with the two on life skills after school, such as how to match clothes, balance a checkbook and exercise.
She has worked with McLarney for five years and Robson for three and a half years. Withers said she thinks it’s "really cool" and special that "Patrick gave the crown away."
"Before this they called each other king and queen, and now they really are," said Withers, a Mesa resident.