Figurines of frogs, gnomes and children cover Judy Zobrist’s backyard and front yard at her Mesa home while inside various rooms have other collectables all built around certain themes. (David Minton/Staff Photographer)

With more frogs in her yard than a biblical plague, Judy Zobrist has almost everybody leaping with joy for her art collection with over 400 figurines.

The Sunland Village resident said she “always loved frogs” and yard art in general, hunting for pieces and other knickknacks at thrift stores and flea markets and sometimes getting them for free from other people.

Zobrist’s collection has generated a legion of fans among her neighbors and passersby who drive past her front yard to gawk at the plethora of yard art, primarily frog ornaments. 

But her favorite piece is a pair of frogs she got from her late husband in 2012 as a birthday gift not long before he passed.

While she has transformed her house into “frog heaven,” Zobrist said she enjoys customizing knickknacks as a testament to a home that’s brought her so much happiness.

“When I come up the street, I just fall in love with it all over again,” Judy said. “It’s totally different.”

The Buffalo, New York, native moved 16 times in nine years as a child.

Zobrist spent her adult life doing “everything for work” and her last job was a project engineer.

She spent several years as a single woman in Florida after her first marriage broke apart and found work as a receptionist at a construction company.

There, she met her prince.  

In 1989, while working on an Interstate 95 project, Larry Zobrist proposed to her over a beer at Chili’s.

“He says to me ‘I’m going to marry you’ and I says ‘when hell freezes over,’ and he says ‘I’ll wait 50 years for you,’” Zobrist recalled.

Hell didn’t freeze over in 1991, but hers heart melted and she and Larry got married in a quaint wedding ceremony arranged with the help of their coworkers.

Soon after, the couple moved to Arizona, where Larry started work on the Mill Avenue bridge.

She recalls a happy life together with him, from friendly pillow fights to her lessons from Larry on how to drink his favorite beer, Budweiser.

The couple moved to Sunland Village East in 2006, where the Frog Lady’s reputation began. 

“I came home and he said ‘what do you have?’” Zobrist said. “And I said ‘well, the bedroom set’s going to be delivered but this is the new person in my life.’”

She pointed to a 2-foot-tall “frog butler holding a tray.”

Larry encourage her for years afterward to keep collecting ornamental frogs. 

After 20 years of marriage and working together for the same company, they retired in 2009.

Three years later, on April 1, Larry underwent heart surgery.

He had called her before the operation when he realized he wouldn’t be able to pick up a gift for her birthday and asked her to pick up the gift from the store.

“So, when I picked those up I was all excited and I was like ‘oh good, I can’t wait to show him,’ but I never got a chance,” Zobrist said. 

Zobrist keeps that the pair of frogs – her late husband’s last gift –  tucked against the back wall of her backyard, seemingly overseeing dozens of other figurines.

“He put me on a pedestal,” Judy said, holding back tears. “Everything was for me, I couldn’t spoil him, I really couldn’t.”

If he was alive today, Zobrist said Larry would still encourage his 5’2” “Little Z” to pursue her hobby.

She eventually found a new prince – John, who lives across the street.

He had heard about the “Frog Lady” but had never met her in person until they started dating nine years ago.

“Personally, I don’t go to any of the activities here,” Judy said. “I don’t know anybody, but people know me.”

She won her battle with her homeowners association over her lawn ornaments, getting it to allow the 136 frogs on her lawn and a sign in her backyard that reads “Frog Heaven.”

Inside her home, her  living room is dedicated to wine-related figurines and her dining room brims with chef figurines,.

Inspired by her mother, who made ceramics, and her late husband’s encouragement, Judy paints an average six pieces of art a week and plans to grow her collection as long as she can.

 “I didn’t realize that I had the ability to do what I have created,” she said.  

“And my biggest my biggest love of everything is that I bring something that can be broken or something that is dirty or something that’s cracked into the world and make it beautiful.”

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