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.