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R.B. and Marge showed us love has no expiration date
By Laurie Roberts, Republic Columnist
The Arizona Republic
April 6, 2016
I’m thinking of R.B. Sleeth today. Of finding love when you least expect it and fighting for happy endings.
I’m thinking of R.B., who had a good life — except when the state of Arizona tried to protect him.
I met R.B. in 2008, when former Gov. Rose Mofford called to ask if I could help her longtime friend.
Maybe you remember the story of the old man who was locked up – literally – over love.
R.B., a retired executive with Armour Foods, met Marge Foley in 2003, when she was nanny to his son’s children. They fell in love and came within minutes of getting married in late 2007.
But R.B.’s son interrupted the wedding, believing that 73-year-old Marge was a gold digger with her sights set on his 79-year-old father. The son had gone to a probate court to get his father declared mentally incompetent and himself made guardian.
It didn’t take long for the son to separate R.B. from Marge, appealing to a judge to let his father live out his days in a “high end quality assisted living residential setting.”
I came across R.B. in 2008 when he was living in a lock-down Alzheimer’s unit in Scottsdale, put there by a son who wanted to prevent him from eloping and left there by a probate judge who saw no problem with the arrangement.
Never mind that R.B. didn’t have Alzheimer’s.
Mofford was among 40 of his friends who went to court asking that a new guardian be appointed.
“I want to go home,” R.B. once told me, after he was sprung from lock-down and put into a nursing home. “And then Marge and I are going to get married. I want to get my life back together again. I essentially have no life, Laurie, living like this.”
In the end, justice and love prevailed – with help from a pair of bulldog attorneys named Tom Asimou and Charles Stegall — and on St. Patrick’s Day 2009, R.B. and Marge were married. The bride was 74. The groom was 80.
R.B. and Marge went on to prove that there is no expiration date on life or love.
They traveled to the Carolinas, took a train from Flagstaff to Chicago and they stood on the north rim of the Grand Canyon. They went to Diamondbacks games and Cardinals games and would sing in the car as they drove around town. There were dogs to walk and sunsets to watch, sitting by their backyard pool. There were rose bushes to tend and at night they would turn on the TV to a music channel and dance.
The only dark spot: the family rift never was repaired.
“We had a wonderful life together,” Marge told me last week. “We were so happy but he couldn’t see any of his grandchildren and I couldn’t see some of mine.”
R.B. lost everything he knew and loved. Everything, that is, but Marge who remained by his side, even after he was diagnosed a few years ago with dementia. Always right there until last week when R.B. left this world.
On that day, his beloved rose garden exploded in blooms. Marge figures that was R.B., sending her a message.
“It was a lot of love,” she told me. “A lot of love.”