Even after nearly 56 years of marriage, Ed Stone said, his wife can't quite understand how he parts with his money when he meets someone in need.
"She thinks I'm an easy mark," the 76-year-old Stone said.
Stone has given financial assistance to several people over the years, and last week the Encino resident was at it again--his beneficiary this time a fellow good Samaritan.
Stone, a sales executive for a company that builds exhibits for trade shows, bought a car for Paul Jacob of Simi Valley, who in December found a wallet containing $1,200 and returned it to its owner, a Reseda woman.
Stone was moved by a news report quoting Jacob, 40, a design engineer, as saying that he could have used the money to buy Christmas presents for his five children but decided "my conscience might be a little more important than my kids' Christmas."
"It struck me that this was an unusual young man," Stone said. "This could have been ready cash, but he gave it back."
So Stone arranged to meet with Jacob and his wife, JoAnn, and their children. On the Saturday before Christmas, he took them to the Sherman Oaks Galleria where he bought toys and other gifts for the children. JoAnn Jacob got a nightgown.
Paul Jacob told Stone that he didn't want anything. He mentioned, however, that the family's station wagon had over 300,000 miles on it.
"He said he could really use another car, just wheels to get from home to the office and back," Stone said.
Stone instructed Jacob to begin shopping around for a used car.
Last week, Jacob found one, a 1982 metallic green Oldsmobile, with 80,000 miles on the odometer. He showed it to Stone, and the elder man bought it, paying $2,150.
Such generosity is not unusual for Stone.
He said he has helped a number of people since he moved to California from New York City 17 years ago, including a Chicago cab driver he met on a sales trip who taught Spanish-speaking children in a church group. Stone loaned the man money for a van to transport the children.
Stone said he uses his salesman's experience to size up people, but once made a bad call and helped a Los Angeles man who did not repay a loan.
"I'm not a rich man, but I can spare the money," said Stone, a father of two and a grandfather of six. "I've enjoyed a good life. To spend $3,000 or $4,000 means nothing to me. Money is just a means to an end. If I had a bank account with $100,000 in it, what would I do with it? Buy a newer car, more suits? I have enough already."
Jacob said he still can't quite believe the fallout from his return of the $1,200.
Six other people sent him money, totaling about $200, and, with Stone, "It was like having a real Santa Claus," he said.
Unfortunately, the latest gift came from a used-car lot and not Santa's workshop. A smog control valve melted and Jacob spend most of Wednesday looking for the part, which cost him $58.
He used the old station wagon Wednesday to drive to a meeting with Stone at a Ventura Boulevard restaurant.
Although Jacob said he first was uneasy about Stone's generousity, he was able joke about it over coffee. The car was great, he said, but what he really wanted for Christmas was one of those large radios that kids often carry down the street.
"You didn't tell me that you wanted one of those," Stone said. "I'll get you one."
"No. No, you've done enough," Jacob said with a laugh.
Stone confided that he still has not told his wife, Blanche, about his most recent spending spree.
"When she finds out, she'll be amazed," he said.