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Karma, Good Samaritan reunite woman and purse

by: Cliff Newell, 
Melody Ghormley has her purse and its contents back thanks to Good Samaritan Gil Burke.

Melody Ghormley's black purse looks worse for the wear these days.

It now has tire tracks and nicks and cuts on it and generally looks rather battered. That doesn't matter.

The purse is more precious than ever to Ghormley because once it was lost but now it is found.

Ghormley received a special blessing when Gil Burke, an unlikely combination of the Good Samaritan and Earl Hickey, found the purse on the Sellwood Bridge and delivered it right to her job.

In a situation already loaded with coincidence, irony and good luck, all Burke had to do was cross the street. He works as a master technician at Goodyear of Lake Oswego, while Ghormley is a secretary for the Lake Oswego Parks and Recreation Department.

'Gil should get some recognition,' Ghormley said. 'He is an angel.'

Burke laughs at any description of himself as an angel or a Good Samaritan. But he does admit, 'I firmly believe in karma.'

That makes him like Earl Hickey, the dauntless hero of the television show 'My Name Is Earl.' It would be totally off the mark to compare Gil to good old Earl in any other way, but this strong similarity does exist.

'I'm a firm believer that honesty brings good luck,' Burke said. 'What you put out comes back to you. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.'

Only a man loaded with these beliefs would have helped Ghormley in such a fashion.

The episode started one morning when Ghormley hurried off to work, her arms loaded with the things of her very busy life, and jumped into her tiny car. It was just like any other busy morning, except Ghormley now remembers, 'This big silver SUV honked at me when I was on Sellwood Bridge like something was amiss.'

There was. When Ghormley got to work she discovered her purse was missing, and immediately she began to search for it. When that proved futile, she frantically started calling to cancel all of her credit card and bank accounts, worried sick about the possibility of becoming a victim of identity theft.

Ghormley felt even worse when she remembered she had just given her husband a firm lecture about doing a better job of protecting against identity theft. Then Ghormley received a very unusual message from the office: 'We've been trying to call you. Somebody found your purse.'

Burke had spotted the purse, which had fallen from a car door that had popped open, while crossing Sellwood Bridge and immediately decided to retrieve it.

'I had seen other stuff on the bridge before,' Burke said. 'Cameras and everything else. But when I had tried to go back and get them, they were already gone.'

In this case, Burke went one up on the Good Samaritan, who didn't have to dodge whizzing traffic to do his good deed. Burke 'whipped my Corvette around real fast,' stopped traffic, parked the car on a triangle area, and grabbed the precious object.

When Burke showed up with the purse, Ghormley was 'very, very grateful' and pushed a $20 bill into his hands. When he protested and said he didn't do it for any money, she refused to take it back.

But karma had some money in store for Burke. A few days later he won $165 at a casino.

Was karma the reason Ghormley got back her purse? Burke thinks so.

But Ghormley says, 'I believe in the power of prayer.'

However, this is for sure - Melody Ghormley is a very lucky woman and Gil Burke is a very good guy.