Watching over your widow 15 years after dying: Priceless

Woman deems MasterCard founder friendly ghost

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."

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Messages from beyond? Peggy Braden Tune of Viera said her deceased husband, C. Edward Braden, tends to "move" a toy cannon around one of Peggy's bedrooms and that he left a carnation (now dried) under one of the pillows of the couch. Michael R. Brown, FLORIDA TODAY ... (see the picture at the link above)