Monday, 30th October 2017

E- paper

Love in a coffee shop, aided by a ghost

Had it not been for her mother’s spirit, Valentina Marie Lomborg would not have met her husband

By Tammy La Gorce/NYTNS
  • Published 9.02.19, 1:41 PM
  • Updated 9.02.19, 1:41 PM
  • 5 mins read
Valentina Marie Lomborg and Matthew Wiley during their wedding ceremony in Palm Harbor, Florida, on January 5, 2019. The New York Times

It’s hard to blame Matthew Wiley for suspecting that Valentina Marie Lomborg was telling whoppers when he met her in 2017 at a Starbucks in Clearwater, Florida.

Not only did she claim to be a former Los Angeles fashion model who socialised with celebrities, she also said she was psychic.

His credulity didn’t reach its limits, though, until after they exchanged numbers and went on a handful of dates. As Wiley got to know Lomborg, she told him she was fluent in four languages, had lived in the wilds of Alaska for years as a child, was homeless for a time and was being visited regularly by Hollywood chums who flew in for help contacting their deceased loved ones.

“I was like, no, no, no,” said Wiley, 43, a quality manager for an engineering company in Clearwater. “Those things could not happen.”

He has since abandoned those doubts.

Lomborg, 53, moved to Clearwater three years ago. Before starting her business, Psychic Medium Valentina, she was indeed a Los Angeles model who posed for magazines including Jet and Essence and catalogs such as Frederick’s of Hollywood. She also appeared in movies and on television shows, among them “In Living Color,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “Dumb & Dumber.” Her roles were mostly uncredited and of the sexy babe variety.

Her language skills were the result of her peripatetic youth. She was born in Denmark and lived there until age 6, when she and her mother, Hjordis Lomborg, moved to Switzerland. A few years later, her mother, who had divorced Lomborg’s father, married the man she considers her father, David Parkinson. They moved to Alaska, where she picked up Inupiaq, an Eskimo language, and English.

“I was 8 and thrown in there at the top of the world in subzero temperatures with 4,000 Eskimos who had never seen a brown person,” Lomborg said. She finished high school there but never fully acclimated. As soon as she was old enough, she moved to California.

“I was 19, and I basically up and left my family,” Lomborg said. Her goal was to become a musician, she said, the next Blondie or Madonna. Instead, she lived briefly on the streets of Santa Cruz, where she survived, she said, on broken cookies supplied by a sympathetic bakery owner.

Bobbleheads of Valentina Marie Lomborg and Matthew Wiley atop their wedding cake
Bobbleheads of Valentina Marie Lomborg and Matthew Wiley atop their wedding cake The New York Times

By the early 1990s, her dreams of pop stardom were replaced by plans to become a top model. She already had cover-girl bona fides: As a toddler in Denmark, she posed for several issues of the women’s magazine Femina. In Los Angeles, “I got signed to the first agent I met, Irena Kamal, who represented a lot of Playboy models,” she said. Work poured in. “Everyone really believed in me.”

Lomborg’s natural beauty, which earned her a living as a model well into her 40s, wasn’t matched with robust health. In 1991, when she was 23, she said, she suffered a brain injury when she was pushed headfirst onto concrete in an altercation.

The recovery was slow: “A year and a half of hell.” But during that time, she felt a first connection to the spirit world. “I could sense illness and death in people. It was frightening. I just sort of pushed it aside and went back to modeling.”

In 1994, she had a son, Seven. In 2000, she got married, a union that lasted 11 years. Throughout those years, the feeling that her brain injury had opened a connection to the supernatural lingered. A year before her marriage ended, she became curious about the paranormal. “That’s when I got good at talking to ghosts,” she said.

She claims she has been talking to them ever since, particularly the ghost of her mother, who died in 2015 of congestive heart failure in California, two weeks after her stepfather died of the same condition. (Lomborg never reconciled with her biological father.)

Lomborg believes she would not have landed in Florida or met Wiley if it weren’t for her otherworldly communications with her mother. “She basically told me, if you’re going to channel people, then do it to help others,” she said. “I told her, you’ve got to send me somebody to help me. I need a soul mate.”

Los Angeles no longer seemed the place to find one. “I had no family, and I was kind of done with modeling. I said to myself, Let’s wrap this whole thing up and pick a brand-new city,” she said. She grabbed her cat, Lyra, and pointed a U-Haul toward Clearwater, a place that looked pretty in Google Images, while Seven stayed behind in California (he has since moved to Clearwater). By the end of the year she had set up an apartment and her psychic business.

She also started making friends, including a neighbour, Debbie Good. When Lomborg wasn’t seeing clients hoping to reach deceased loved ones, she and Good solidified their friendship over regular meetings for coffee at a nearby Starbucks.

Wiley was about to leave the store holding his usual venti cup before Lomborg and Good arrived. Then his phone rang. “That call ended up lasting 45 minutes,” he said. “It was fate. It delayed me.” When he hung up, he got in line for a refill and noticed Lomborg looking his way.

“I saw this beautiful woman with this huge smile, and I thought, ‘Who’s she smiling at?’ Then I realised I was the only guy in line,” said Wiley, who was divorced in 2007 and has three children, Elijah, Maya and Cairo, who live in California.

A few yards away at the counter, Good was preparing to clear out so Lomborg would appear more approachable. “V whispered to me, if I pick up my cup, that means that cute guy in line is coming over here,” Good said. “Sure enough, she picked up her cup. I grabbed my phone and walked away so they could talk.”

By the time they left Starbucks, Wiley, who had consumed three venti coffees, was so intrigued by Lomborg he texted her from the bathroom. And even though her history seemed unlikely and he wasn’t entirely sure about the supernatural, he sensed her beliefs were genuine. Within weeks, he too began believing. “I know it’s weird, but her mom is definitely a presence in her apartment. I could just feel her there,” he said.

In May 2018, Lomborg and Wiley flew to St Lucia for a vacation. Wiley had told Good a few months earlier, in confidence, that he wanted to marry Lomborg. Around the same time, Lomborg also confided in Good.

“V said, ‘Why hasn’t he proposed? Maybe he doesn’t love me. Maybe he doesn’t trust me.’ I had to bite my tongue,” Good said.

Lomborg was able to set her worries aside in St. Lucia, at the site of one of her favorite episodes of “The Bachelor,” the Jade Mountain Resort. After a volcanic mud bath, she and Wiley went for a walk on the beach, where they found a hammock to climb into.

“Then Matthew all of a sudden says, I have a poem I want to read you, and he jumps out of the hammock,” Lomborg said. She swiveled to sit up, feet in the sand, as he read. At the final handwritten verse, he dropped to one knee and presented a diamond engagement ring. “Stay with me and tell me true/Love will you marry me?” he recited.

On January 5, Lomborg and Wiley were married in a star-themed outdoor wedding, a nod to their belief in astrology and the coffee chain that united them.
On January 5, Lomborg and Wiley were married in a star-themed outdoor wedding, a nod to their belief in astrology and the coffee chain that united them. The New York Times

The evening had been cloudy, but both swear the clouds dissipated the moment Lomborg said yes. “Every single star was all of a sudden shining down on us in full brightness, and I felt the approval of my mother and father,” Lomborg said.

On January 5, Lomborg and Wiley were married before 65 guests at the Earthscapes Garden Room in Palm Harbor in a star-themed outdoor wedding, a nod to their belief in astrology and the coffee chain that united them. Bonnie Sanchez, a minister through the American Marriage Ministries, officiated.

c.2019 New York Times News Service