Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Watching Over Widow 15 Years? Priceless...

November 8, 2005
Watching over your widow 15 years after dying: PricelessWoman deems MasterCard founder friendly ghostBY BILLY COX FLORIDA TODAY
Happily married, active and settled into an attractive new home near a golf course in Viera, Howard and Peggy Tune look like the poster couple for retirement bliss. There's just one thing: The guy she was married to for 39 years keeps watching them. And he's dead.
This isn't some low-life loser, either. You've probably never heard of the guy, but if you own a MasterCard -- or even a credit card, for that matter -- you're a direct beneficiary of his work. His name is C. Edward Braden, and the epitaph on his tombstone at the Mount Calvary Cemetery in Richmond, Va., stakes his turf: "Father of MasterCard."
From his entry-level position as an assistant cashier at the Bank of Virginia, Braden ascended the ladder to assistant vice president based largely on his innovations with Merchant's Bank Credit Services, which began issuing metallic "charge plates" to customers in 1954.
The concept proved lucrative enough to lead Braden's bank (which became Signet Bank, then First Union, before its current incarnation as Wachovia) into a 1964 partnership with five other lending institutions, called the Interbank Card Association.
The ICA, whose steering committee Braden chaired, issued credit cards that could be used across the nation, beginning with MasterCharge in 1967.
Thus began the revolution of easy shopping and easy debt.
Although Braden died of lung cancer in 1990, his widow, her family and friends from Pennsylvania to Florida claim the life-long smoker keeps an eye on Peggy's affairs. Jiggling light switches, flipping on radios, beeping buttons, rearranging personal items -- including his favorite, a toy brass cannon from childhood -- and generally startling the bejeebers out of the unsuspecting, Ed Braden's presence has left an enduring mark those who draw near. Especially Howard Tune.
A no-nonsense military veteran of 34 years who retired as an Army lieutenant colonel, Howard handled Peggy's warnings about Ed with an undaunted shrug when they first started dating in St. Augustine in 2002.
"She told me Ed doesn't want me going out with other men," he recalls. "But she seemed like a logical and truthful woman, so I accepted it."
How it started
When Howard returned home from a date one evening around 9:30, he was relaxing in front of the television when the doorbell rang. He answered it. Nobody there. He watched TV again. The doorbell rang again. Nobody there. The sequence repeated itself five more times until Howard fetched his screwdriver and disconnected the wiring.
Upon sitting down again, he heard the microwave beeping in his kitchen. When he flicked on the kitchen light, every cabinet door was wide open. "So, I thought, 'Oh, this is what she means.' "
It could've been worse. After all, the first suitor to pay Peggy a visit after Ed died bolted when the boards behind the TV set started cracking and the microwave started beeping by itself at her home near Chesapeake Bay. But Howard must've done something right. Because amid the poltergeist mojo and the eerie aroma of roses and cigarettes at midnight, Ed wound up making a conciliatory gesture to the newlyweds.
The day he died
The road to Ed's magnanimity began 15 years ago, during his final drive with Peggy on a winter's day. They never discussed the afterlife, but he remarked wistfully on the snowfall, and about how "I guess this will be the last time I'll ever see this." Then he made a curious vow: "I'll come back and protect you."
Ed's messages from oblivion were immediate, from the moment son Scott's car clock began blinking at 7:41 (the moment of death) as he drove to his dad's hospital bed, to the memorable funeral-home scene when daughter-in-law Diane shattered the somber decorum by screaming.
"It was embarrassing, and I really don't know how to explain it," says Diane Braden from her home in Pittsburgh. "All I know is, it seemed to me like he was sitting up in his coffin. Although I know he didn't. He couldn't have."
Peggy spent the final week of Ed's life camped in the hospital, where she removed her jewelry at night. Ed kept asking her whether she'd found the items after she reported them missing, but she assumed they'd been stolen by someone on staff.
"I spent the night with (son Steve and his wife Debbie) in Richmond right after Ed died," Peggy says. "Debbie washed my warmup suit and folded it up inside my suitcase one morning. Well, when I opened up the suitcase, there they were, my bracelets, right on top. I said, 'Debbie! Come here!' "
Even now, the memory gives Debbie the creeps. "I'm thinking, 'oh my god, this is very weird,' " she says from her home in Ponte Verde. "I know they hadn't been there before because I packed the suitcase myself."
Maybe the creepiest part of the early aftermath came every morning between 4:30 and 5, when Peggy returned to her empty house in White Stone. That's when Ed used to start his day. That's also when his new widow began to notice her interior bedroom doorknob turning to the right and then snapping back to the left.
"It occurred to me at that point that he wasn't coming into the room -- he'd been here all night and he was leaving," she says. "I have never been so frightened in my life."
Demonstrating his disapproval of a bad business deal she'd gotten herself into by rattling drawer knobs, fiddling with the PA system in a West Palm Beach courtroom during a hearing, manipulating electric door locks without a key, sending coded messages through the computer printout machine.
Two years ago, Peggy called investigators from the Florida Paranormal Research Foundation, who posted the ambiguous results of their investigation at www.floridaparanormal.com
Peggy ultimately decided against an exorcism, in part because of something that happened when she and Howard moved into their Cocoa Beach condominium.
Moving things
In August 2002, the two were watching TV atop the bedspread in their guestroom, because the master bedroom hadn't been wired yet. (The guestroom became known unofficially as Ed's room, because that's where he constantly rearranged his toy cannon.) The Tunes eventually retired to the master bedroom, and discovered, the next morning, how two silk flowers had been plucked from an arrangement on placed atop the guestroom pillows they had rested upon the night before.
A couple days later, Howard got up and found six of those flowers strewn along the hallway from the master bedroom to the guest bedroom.
"I guess that means he approves," Howard says. "At least, I hope so."
Approval or no, the Braden family hasn't reached a consensus on a comfort zone. "My mother just passed recently," says Diane Braden, "and I've heard nothing from her. I want her to rest in peace. And I want (Ed) to be at rest, too. It bothers me that he's not."
But for his widow, Ed Braden's lingering spirit has become such a permanent fixture, she placed his cannon beneath a hanging skeleton during a Halloween party several years ago in acknowledgement. After all, she reasons, the only time he makes his presence known is when he feels neglected.
"I suspect Ed's still trying to keep that promise he made," says Peggy Tune, on a sunny afternoon in Viera when absolutely nothing happens.
Contact Cox at 242-3774 or bcox@flatoday.net

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