In honor of Valentine’s Day, two southwest-area couples share how they met and how they’ve managed to make their relationships work while battling illness.
‘WE NEVER WALK OUT THAT DOOR WITHOUT SAYING I LOVE YOU’
Seventeen-year-old Monica Gamble was finishing her shift at a local Burger King in 1982 when her baby sitter dropped off her 2-year-old daughter, Tiffany.
Walking into the restaurant lobby, Monica discovered an older man feeding her daughter French fries.
“I was a bit put off by it,” said Monica, now 49. “But Tiffany was a French fry freak. She would beg them off of anybody.”
The 27-year-old man, William Gamble, then 27, said he knew the baby sitter and thought nothing of feeding Tiffany.
“(Monica) looked at me like I was crazy,” William, now 59, said. “If looks could kill, I would not be here now.”
Monica went to the bathroom to change out of her work clothes. When she returned to her daughter, William was gone.
“I just kept thinking to myself, ‘He’s kind of cute,’ ” Monica said.
The couple met again a few days later at the apartment of Tiffany’s father, whom Monica was no longer dating.
“It turned out the father was a young man I grew up with,” William said. “We used to play football together, but I had never met (Monica) before.”
A month later, the couple ran into each other walking on the street. Monica invited William back to her apartment to hang out.
“It was the most amazing night of my life,” William said. “At that point, I had already been through one marriage with two daughters. I (thought) I would never get married again.”
Throughout the night, Monica and William played with Tiffany, hid Easter eggs, drank wine and danced.
“As we were dancing, it was the first time I looked into someone’s eyes and saw their soul,” William said. “She was so close to turning to the streets to support her child, but I wouldn’t let it happen. This town would have chewed her up and spit her out in little pieces.”
The couple started dating, and after a few months, Monica returned home to Hawthorne, a small town southeast of Carson City, with William. One night after Monica turned 18, William surprised her after work by asking if she wanted to get married.
“He had always said he was never going to get married again, and I was like, ‘Okay, ‘OK, I’ll live in sin. I don’t care,’ ” Monica said. “When he asked me, I thought he was joking, but he said he was serious.”
Monica and William threw a wedding together in a week and were married on March 1, 1983, by the justice of the peace in her mother’s house.
“Love is all powerful,” said William, “and being blessed with somebody I can actually give that love to and receive it back with no regrets, no doubts whatsoever, is just a very intense feeling.”
William’s doctor recently gave him two or three years to live after he contracted a noncontagious form of hepatitis C. Because of the situation, Monica said they try to live in each moment.
“We can only plan so much,” Monica said. “It makes things so much more intense with the time we have. When we’re happy, we’re happier. When we’re sad, we’re sadder.”
The couple areis set to celebrate their 31st anniversary on March 1. The secret to a long, healthy relationship is communication and trust, they said.
“We really made a point not to go to bed angry with each other,” Monica said. “Even if we have to separate to go to work, we always say, ‘I love you.’ We never walk out that door without saying, ‘I love you.’ ”
73-YEAR-OLDS SAY LOVE AND RESPECT HAVE HELPED RELATIONSHIP SURVIVE
Dieter Bornemann was engaged to a woman a few months before he met his current partner James Borden.
“You can’t hide (being gay). It comes through,” Dieter said. “You’re not truthful to yourself. You just can’t fight it like people say.”
While Dieter, 73, said he was attracted to James’ beautiful personality, James, 73, jokes that he was in it for the money.
“I thought he had money,” James said. “He had a brand new yellow Thunderbird, and I looked at (him) and thought, ‘Where did he get all that money?’ ”
The couple first noticed each other at a New Jersey diner in 1967 and then ran into each other again the following night at a bar.
“He was buying people drinks, and they weren’t reciprocating,” Dieter said. “People were taking advantage of him, (and) I said, ‘He doesn’t deserve this.’ ”
James said they began spending more time together and became a couple. With Dieter’s extensive culinary background, the men opened a restaurant in Red Bank, N.J., in 1971. It was then that Dieter knew James was “the one.”
“I was looking for someone to help open the restaurant, and I knew he was a businessman,” Dieter said. “He had a woman come in, and she wanted to buy something he didn’t have, and he had such a way to suggest something (else) to her.
“I said, ‘What a nice person. This is important for business and everything else.’ That was the trick.”
After about 40 years, James and Dieter sold the restaurant and moved to Las Vegas. Despite bouts of illnesses, the men said their relationship has survived due to love and respect.
“Whatever we did in life, we talked it over,” Dieter said. “Respect to him, (and) respect to me. It’s a two-way street.”
Although the couple are open about their relationship, Dieter said they don’t mingle with the “gay crowd.”
“They have gotten to be very strange people to us,” Dieter said. “I was thinking it’s because we don’t go flower around. The more they do it, the more it turns us off.”
After 47 years together, the couple have never considered marriage, though their lawyer pushed it for tax purposes, James said.
“Our mayor was gay in Red Bank, and he was going to do it,” Dieter said. “I said, ‘Listen, I don’t want to get the government involved.’ ”
While James said they finish each other’s sentences, Dieter added they also read each other’s minds.
“It’s (been) so long, you get used to them,” Dieter said. “It’s a wonderful thing. That’s what life is all about.”
Contact Southwest/Spring Valley View reporter Caitlyn Belcher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0403.