Olden Opportunity

"Talk plain!" 99-year-old Edward Beeler Gamble demands of a visitor to his Sun City home.

The subject is Viagra.
"Is that for a man who has trouble performing sexually, trouble getting an erection?" the retired Naval commander asks, leaning forward in his wheelchair. Told that it is, Gamble says he read something about a similar drug in a veteran's magazine.

"I'd be very much interested in that," he says.
Lorraine DeJongh Gamble walks into the living room with a glass of water for her husband of six weeks. Getting the gist of the conversation, she rolls her eyes.

"Here you go, Eddie," Lorraine tells Ed. "Drink up."
She's wearing a sweat suit and has tied her hair back.
"Where's your hair?" Ed asks her, an impish smile crossing his ancient face. "I want to see it. It's beautiful."

Lorraine unclasps her hair, lets it fall below her shoulders, then shakes her head wildly from side to side.

"How's that?" she asks Ed, giving him a quick kiss on the lips before he can answer.

Gamble bought this home in the late 1980s with his third wife, Alice Anne, who died in 1996. It's spotless and well-appointed, replete with mementos of his century on the planet. Photos of Ed and Alice Anne are visible around the house, including his bedroom, but Lorraine says that doesn't bother her.

It's one day after Valentine's Day, and the visitor wants to know what Ed got in the way of romantic gifts.

"Nothing," he says, after Lorraine returns to the kitchen to check on a roast. "Don't need a Valentine--she's my Valentine. That's my wife. I thought she was attractive when I first met her, then nature took its course. I take them as they come. I don't want to marry any old ones."

Lorraine DeJongh was born in 1960, Ed Gamble in 1899.
He's 99; she's 38.
The year Lorraine was born, Ed retired and moved to Sun City.
He's outlived his two children. She's never had any.

Ed and Lorraine's improbable union became front-page news on January 7, after Peoria Justice of the Peace Lex Anderson informed media that he'd refused to marry them on December 31.

"Love or Money? Couple's Wedding Raises Eyebrows," read a headline in the Arizona Republic.

"The gentleman was slumped over in a wheelchair," the story quoted Anderson as saying. "And if you look at the marriage license, you can see that he had trouble signing his name. All in all, too many red flags went up."

The story noted that Lorraine recently had been put on probation for a disorderly conduct conviction, stemming from a spat with a sheriff's deputy. (She'd been detained on a drunken-driving charge, which later was dismissed.)

Anderson said he phoned Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley with his concerns. But Glendale Justice of the Peace Quentin Tolby married the pair about an hour after they left Anderson's court. Tolby said he became convinced of Gamble's mental acuity after hearing his responses to several questions.

The Republic story also quoted Phoenix attorney Paul Blunt, who had been hired by Ed Gamble's grandson, Gary, after the elder Gamble took steps to remove Gary as trustee and sole beneficiary of Ed's estate.

Blunt denounced Ed Gamble's 60-day, South American luxury cruise with Lorraine. He pointed out that Lorraine's divorce from her fourth husband had become final just nine days before she married Ed--another warning sign.

Ed and Lorraine provided fodder for days on radio talk shows. Hosts and callers alike railed against Lorraine for being a gold digger, while assuming that Ed Gamble was senile.

The Gambles kept their silence, despite repeated offers from television shows and local media. (This story marks the first time they have spoken publicly about their marriage.)

At first blush, the marriage did smell like a classic case of financial exploitation, and possibly more: Ed Gamble has about $900,000 in assets, which is about $900,000 more than Lorraine had access to before she met him.

But the relationship between Ed and Lorraine isn't what it first seemed. What it appears to be is a marriage of convenience for both parties. He needs someone to take care of him. She needs a home.

Even if she wanted to, Lorraine couldn't take Ed's money and run, either before or after he dies. According to a new trust document Ed signed a few weeks ago, Lorraine never will control his estate. His assets are now being managed by a neutral third party, an arrangement that will continue after he dies. If Lorraine does survive Ed, she'll collect only the interest income on the trust assets--about $10,000 a year--except for certain living expenses, medical care and other miscellany.

Under the new plan, Ed's estate will go to a children's charity after Lorraine dies. (It's uncertain if Lorraine will collect Ed's pension payments, which total about $18,000 annually.) The couple has no prenuptial agreement, which Ed reiterates was his idea, not Lorraine's.

Even Paul Blunt has come to see the marriage in a new light.
"I'm very conflicted about this case," says Blunt, who is co-chairman of Maricopa County's Elder Abuse Prevention Alliance and a member of the Governor's Council on Aging. "On the one hand, Ed Gamble is my hero. I want to grow up and be 99 and alert, and marry my 38-year-old nurse.

"But I don't want to think that the only way I'll get decent care is by marrying or giving away my property to a care giver--and to turn my back on my family in favor of somebody I've known less than a month. Maybe there's some mutual benefit we can look at and see now. But it sure looked like she walked in there--and I'm still not convinced she didn't--with the full intent of feathering her nest."

When Ed met Lorraine last August, he was a lonely, almost deaf, legally blind man who needed nearly constant care. He's still all of the above, except for lonely. But he's also a man whose mind remains exceptionally keen.

As for Lorraine, meeting "Mr. Eddie," as she likes to call him, was fortuitous. She'd recently separated from her fourth husband, and was living with her dog and cat at a friend's house. She didn't own a car. Probably the best thing in Lorraine's life was her job as a home-health aide for aged clients.

Ed's interest in Viagra aside, the pair are circumspect on the sexual nature of their relationship. "She is my wife, but we are companions," he says cryptically.

Lorraine seems somewhat befuddled by the fuss that's accompanied her marriage to Mr. Eddie, as if it's commonplace to wed someone old enough to be your great-grandfather. Whatever her motivations, she will earn whatever comes to her if she stays the course with Ed.

Being Mrs. Eddie Gamble is no cakewalk. Lorraine is with him 'round-the-clock, catering to his whims, which are many.

Ed usually carries a small plastic horn with him in his wheelchair. When he toots it, Lorraine comes running. Mr. Eddie is her job, her mission, her life.

"I don't hang around with anybody anyway," she says. "As long as I'm around, Eddie's happy, and so am I. And I haven't been happy much in my life."

Ed Gamble's attorney, Alisa Gray, tells of a vivid exchange that occurred during a meeting a few weeks ago.

"It was after Mr. [Ed] Gamble looked his grandson in the eye and said, 'You mind your business and I'll mind mine,'" says Gray, an expert in probate law who has represented many senior citizens. "Gary said, 'Whatever happens, I want to be a part of your life.' I told him, 'Then you'll have to make room for Lorraine, because she's not going anywhere.'"

Although Ed and Lorraine had been married, Ed's task in January was to convince the courts, the County Attorney's Office, a psychologist and his own attorney that he hadn't lost his marbles. All this was necessary because of the hullabaloo over the marriage and because his grandson was fighting Ed's effort to change his trust.

On January 12, Paul Blunt asked a Probate Court commissioner to appoint an emergency guardian and conservator to watch over Ed Gamble and his estate.

In court papers, Blunt said Gamble was "unable to manage his property and affairs effectively due to mental deficiency, mental disorder, physical illness and disability and advanced age." He also claimed Lorraine "may be wasting and dissipating Edward's estate, unduly influencing Edward to transfer assets and financially exploiting Edward."

Blunt gave his perspective of the circumstances that led to the December 31 wedding, and added troubling new allegations. He claimed that investigators from the County Attorney's Office had told him that Lorraine had withdrawn $40,000 in savings from Ed Gamble's bank account. He said investigators from the County Attorney's Office had observed the January 6 transaction, at a Wells Fargo branch in Sun City. While Lorraine was in the bank, they observed Ed Gamble alone in a van "which appeared to have been recently purchased," Blunt said.

The investigators approached the van, according to Blunt, at which time "[Gamble] became confused, frustrated and yelled through the glass that he did not know how to open the door."

It sounded as though Lorraine was raiding her new husband's estate. As it turns out, someone--there's finger-pointing about whom--erred badly on the bank issue. More on that later. The result was that Wells Fargo froze Ed's bank accounts on January 8. Whether the bank or the County Attorney's Office initiated the freeze is in dispute.

"I didn't even have enough money to buy a hot dog for a while," Ed says of the account seizure. "We had to use Lorraine's money, and for no good reason. I know exactly what I'm doing with my money."

During a January 12 hearing, county court commissioner Gary Donahoe quizzed Ed about his personal history, family and his assets. Before moving along, Donahoe asked Ed if he had any other assets.

"Just this one here," he immediately replied, gesturing toward Lorraine.
Ed passed the quiz. Donahoe lifted the freeze on the bank accounts, and appointed Dr. Pamela Willson, a neuropsychologist, to further evaluate Ed's mental state.

Concluded Willson in a report dated January 29: "Mr Gamble is . . . competent to make personal decisions . . . [He] has strong values, and marrying the woman he wants to be physically and personally close to is the proper thing to do, from his perspective. . . . He knows she has been married four times, knows about her recent DUI and related problems and has met her family; despite the difference in their ages and backgrounds, he says he is comfortable in her company, and indeed appears to be so."

Even ignoring the three-generation disparity between Ed and Lorraine Gamble, theirs is an unlikely match.

Hers has been a difficult existence, punctuated by four failed marriages, a near-fatal car wreck and chronic unhappiness.

"Lorraine has had a lot of awful things happen to her," says her mother, Phoenix resident Gloria DeJongh. "It's natural to think she's gold digging, and I understand why people think she is, but she doesn't have a cold-blooded nature, quite the opposite."

The public record reveals no evidence that Lorraine is a scam artist, as was suggested in a Sun City Independent article titled "Wedding Bell Blues." It said Lorraine's criminal history includes an "assault conviction as well as allegedly committing fraudulent schemes."

She was convicted last December of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, and says that marks her only brush with the law other than a DUI conviction more than a decade ago.

To the contrary, Ed's life has been filled with professional and personal successes. No doubt he's old school--very old school. But, as Dr. Pamela Willson wrote of Ed in January, "He is a pleasant, feisty man with a keen, dry sense of humor."

Forget Ed's glaucoma, wobbly gait, anemia, near-deafness, his heart attack of several years ago. All things considered, he's doing fine.

He says he speaks three languages--"English, Spanish and profane." Asked how tall he is, he shoots back, "Right now, I'm pretty short," a reference to his reliance on a wheelchair.

His posture in the chair, by the way, is excellent. It outrages him that Justice of the Peace Anderson told the Republic he was "slumped over" at the aborted December 31 ceremony.

"Stooped over in a wheelchair?" he says, voice rising. "I was in a wheelchair, but not slumped over. I can sign things fine, but I can't see the lines, that's why my signature looks the way it does. The guy never even asked me a question, he just saw an old man in a wheelchair."

Ed riffs on:
"You never know what happiness is until you get married--and then it's too late. All kidding aside, marriage is a wonderful life, a wonderful institution, the foundation of everything. . . . But who wants to live in an institution?"

Since this is Ed's fourth marriage (he's been widowed twice, divorced once) and Lorraine's fifth, might the joke not be on them?

"I'm happily married," he says, done with the gags for the moment.
Ed Gamble was born near Safford, in southeastern Arizona, on November 30, 1899, one of eight children. The family later landed in Clifton, where his father worked as a train engineer in the copper mines.

Ed enlisted in the Navy in 1918, and was trained as a radio operator at a school near San Francisco.

"I'd go to the city every weekend to be with a girlfriend," he recalls. "That comes natural."

After Ed's stint in the Navy (he remained in the Naval Reserve for another 25 years), he moved to Los Angeles, where he found work as a railroad motorman earning 42 cents an hour.

"But I could live in a nice room for $2.75 a week, and go to a dance for 10 cents," he says, "so it wasn't all that bad."

During a stretch in the early 1920s, Ed says he found part-time work as a movie extra: "I was a cowboy and a sailor. I remember the 'big storms' they made up. Wild. I remember Geraldine Ferrar, a big star. I remember her breasts heaving--I mean, her bosom. I sure remember that part of it."

In Los Angeles, Ed married for the first time. The couple had two children, but divorced after moving to the Bay Area. He took a job in Oakland with a phone company, working his way up the ladder to senior engineer.

Ed returned to active duty with the Navy during World War II, working as a cryptographer. He returned to civilian life and the phone company after the war, then retired to Sun City in 1960 with a nice nest egg.

After his second wife died, Ed continued to go on the ocean cruises he adored. He met his third wife, Alice Anne, on tour in Spain. She was 22 years younger than he, but also recently had lost a spouse. They clicked, and married in 1987.

Alice Anne's death in 1996 shattered Ed. Within weeks, he signed a document that named his grandson, Gary, an Alabama resident, as executor and sole beneficiary of his estate. Living alone, Ed's health and his spirit were failing. In 1997, he says, he realized he needed intensive assistance.

Ed contracted with Sun City Home Health, which provides live-in care givers, if needed. He was known as a demanding client, and inevitably would ask his female care givers if they wanted to take a cruise with him.

He wasn't just flirting. Records show Ed already had paid for his spot on a two-month South American cruise on the Royal Viking Sun, which was scheduled to set sail in late October. But the cruise line had told him he'd need to bring someone to care for him during the long trip.

Late last summer, Sun City Home Health assigned a new employee to work at Ed Gamble's home.

"I met Lorraine on August 10, 1999--no, no, 1998," Ed says. "She came to take care of me. Didn't take me long to see she knew how to cook an egg, and she's not bad-looking."

Lorraine was two weeks from her 38th birthday. She was miserable.
"This isn't a pity party," she says, "but I had nothing--no house, no car. I had split from my husband, I was broke and I was living with a friend."

Born in New Jersey, Lorraine as a youngster moved to Phoenix, where she and her brother were raised by her divorced mother. She got married for the first time at 16, to a young man from Phoenix who'd joined the Navy.

Lorraine moved to Guam with her new husband, where she lived for seven years. She was divorced, remarried and divorced again before she was 20. In Guam, she barely survived a car accident. Her mother says the wreck left her with brain damage and other serious injuries.

Lorraine bounced around after moving back to the States in the early 1980s, working, among other places, in bars, casinos, a gas station and for an orthodontist. A third, short-lived marriage ended when she was 25.

"She couldn't really find her place in life," Gloria DeJongh says.
Lorraine's marriage to her fourth husband foundered in 1998 after he got fired, and the couple lost their Phoenix home and car to foreclosure.

By the time she moved in with a girlfriend last July, Lorraine had found work as a care giver for a Sun City agency. The pay was meager, but she says she enjoyed working with the elderly.

She switched to Sun City Home Care in early August, and was assigned to Ed Gamble's home as one of two care givers working successive eight-hour shifts.

Says attorney Paul Blunt, "Within eight hours of walking in there, she has procured about a $30,000 personal benefit--the cruise. She then marries the individual and becomes the sole beneficiary of a fairly substantial estate. That's troublesome on the face of it."

Lorraine agrees that Ed wasted no time in inviting her to go on the trip, but says she initially declined--"I was trying to get a divorce, and things were a mess."

Ed was smitten.
"I took her to my club for her birthday, August 24," he recalls, "and she was wearing a red dress. I really got to see how beautiful she was."

On Labor Day weekend, however, Lorraine nearly ruined her rare run of good fortune. She says police stopped her on suspicion of DUI after she went out for a drink with a girlfriend. That led to the short clash with a sheriff's deputy, during which she allegedly elbowed him in the gut. (She denies this.)

Jailed on a charge of assaulting the cop, Lorraine called Ed to bail her out. Needing help, Ed phoned his grandson, Gary, in Mobile, Alabama, and asked him to fly out because of an unspecified emergency. Lorraine had been released from custody by the time Gary arrived.

"Gary told Mr. Gamble that he didn't like Lorraine--that she wasn't appropriate," says Ed's attorney, Alisa Gray. "But she already was the light of his life, was his life in some ways. That didn't get things off to a good start, to put it mildly."

According to investigators from the County Attorney's Office, Sun City Home Health officials planned to fire Lorraine after the DUI, but Ed Gamble insisted he wanted her as his care giver.

Lorraine filed for divorce from her fourth husband on September 16, and moved in with Ed as a full-time care giver at the end of that month.

In early October, Ed hired Sun City attorney Mathis Becker to start the paperwork to revoke his trust and remove his grandson as trustee and sole beneficiary.

Becker asked a psychologist to examine Ed to make sure he was legally competent to make such a decision. In a report signed October 6, Dr. D.J. Gaughan wrote that Ed knew almost to the penny what his assets were.

"It is this evaluator's opinion that Ms. DeJongh was not attempting to exert undue influence over Mr. Gamble," Gaughan concluded, after interviewing Ed in Lorraine's presence. "The evaluator's opinion of Mr. Gamble is that he is someone who is not easily led or influenced. Mr. Gamble is without question competent to enter into any type of legal agreement . . . "

Lorraine says she had no idea then how much money Ed Gamble had.
"I knew he owned his house," she says, "but men, they lie. I didn't know about the other stuff in his estate until I saw it in all the papers after everything started happening."

Gloria DeJongh says she broached the issue of money with her daughter.
"I wanted to know that if something did happen [to Ed], there would be some recompense," Gloria says. "I swear, it wasn't a big issue for Lorraine. She would say, 'That's his money, not mine.'"

Ed and Lorraine continued to make plans to go on the cruise in late October. Before they left, Lorraine took him to meet her mother.

"Lorraine went to the store, and he told me he thought they'd make a wonderful couple," Gloria DeJongh recalls. "I said, 'I don't know.' I was appalled. Then he went home and told Lorraine I said they'd make a wonderful couple. He's no dummy."

Despite her misgivings, Gloria says she started to see positive changes in her daughter: "Her whole personality changed after she met Mr. Eddie. She's a completely different girl. She became completely responsible. She told me, 'I really love him, ma,' and she was going to get divorced anyway. There's reasons to marry other than sex, and I don't mean for money. This girl needs a companion. If he happens to be 99, well, who's to say?"

On October 19--two days before Ed and Lorraine set sail--he signed the paperwork to revoke his trust agreement. Lorraine still was on Sun City Home Care's payroll, earning about $100 a day while she was gone for full-time home care. (The agency has billed Ed about $13,000 for services rendered by their employee, Lorraine, over a four-month period. So far, he's refused to pay.)

On October 21, the pair boarded the Royal Viking Sun, one of the Cunard Lines' prized luxury vessels. For Ed, it was a joyous occasion. For Lorraine, it was the opportunity of a lifetime.

The luxury vessel's recent 59-day round-South America voyage was enlivened by the presence of a pair whose story could well have been the basis for an episode of the old TV series, Love Boat, at the other end of the booming world-cruise market. They were Lorraine DeJongh and Edwin [sic] Gamble, from Star [sic] City, Arizona. . . . The couple soon established themselves as fun characters on the cruise, with Ms. DeJongh wheeling her fiance around the decks and in the lounges and casino.

--from a December travel article titled "Love on the Ocean Wave--
For a 99-Year-Old Sailor"
The handsome invitations aboard the Royal Viking Sun announced: "Commander Edward B. Gamble (U.S. Navy ret.) and Lorraine L. DeJongh cordially invite [name] to celebrate Edward's 99th birthday and the ceremony to pledge their vows of loyalty and love prior to their official marriage."

Though Ed Gamble says the ceremony was concocted "just for the novelty of it because Lorraine was still working on her divorce," it was more than that. They had become a couple, and a real marriage back in the States loomed.

Still, Gloria DeJongh says, Lorraine had her doubts.
"When Lorraine came back from her trip, she wondered if she should be marrying Mr. Eddie," Gloria says. "I think she really loves the guy, but she didn't know if it was the right thing to do. But she knew he would be devastated if she backed out."

Lorraine's divorce became final December 22, the same day, coincidentally, that a Superior Court judge sentenced her to probation on the disorderly conduct rap.

Ed wanted to get married before the end of the year--"Good for tax reasons," he grunts--and the couple needed a car. He says he wanted to buy a red Cadillac, just as he once had for Alice Anne, but Lorraine convinced him it was more practical to buy a van with a wheelchair lift. The two shopped, and, after Ed did most of the negotiating with a dealer, he wrote a $4,000 check as a down payment on a used van.

Later, Ed says, he realized he should have put the down payment on his VISA credit card to accumulate bonus "points" for his cruises. The dealer cut him a check for $4,000. Lorraine was in the process of depositing it on January 6 when she nearly collided with investigators from the County Attorney's Office.

This was the supposed "$40,000 withdrawal" that Paul Blunt referred to in court papers. Bill FitzGerald, a spokesman for the County Attorney's Office says Blunt got it wrong, that the investigators never told Blunt it was a $40,000 withdrawal.

According to the investigators' report: "Investigator [Frank] Gary glanced at what paperwork [Lorraine DeJongh] had in front of her and . . . obtained a quick glance at what looked like a bank slip that was completed in the amount of either $4,000 or $40,000."

"Au contraire," counters Blunt. "An investigator specifically told me he had seen a bank withdrawal totaling $40,000--his very words. When he'd confronted her [Lorraine] about it, she referred them to her lawyer and walked away from him. That's a big red flag. You put it all together, we saw no reason not to go for protective proceedings on a legal argument that Lorraine was unduly influencing Ed."

Blunt backed off his "undue influence" argument after Ed Gamble acquitted himself so well during the hearing before Commissioner Gary Donahoe.

On January 19, Donahoe dismissed the petition for a temporary guardianship and conservatorship for Ed.

Ed Gamble himself was forced to pay Blunt's fees, which still has him steaming. Gary Gamble had paid Blunt a $50,000 retainer fee with Ed's money. Blunt will end up collecting about $12,500, and must return the rest to the trust.

The criminal case, if there ever was one, against Lorraine Gamble, also went nowhere. Investigators from the County Attorney's Office submitted their final report on the matter a few weeks ago. It says in part:

". . . Our office has no evidence to refute the findings of the two psychological evaluations and that of the witnesses, including Judge Tolby, who felt Gamble was aware of his marriage to DeJongh. . . . The [Wells Fargo Bank] records do not reflect any outrageous or fraudulent behavior."

The authorities and the television cameras have moved on, leaving Ed Gamble and Lorraine DeJongh Gamble to sort out the rhythms of their relationship in relative anonymity.

Ed doesn't plan on dying soon--"Might as well make 150, no reason why not," he says--and Lorraine vows to stay by his side as long as he wants her. Asked why he reckons he's lived so long, Ed resorts to another one-liner.

"I can run faster than most of the guys that have been chasing me," he says. After he stops laughing, he looks around for Lorraine, who's back in the kitchen.

Ed Gamble reaches for his horn, and toots loudly.

Contact Paul Rubin at his online address: [email protected]

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin