updated 2/8/2006 9:56:53 PM ET 2006-02-09T02:56:53

A judge who had to decide if it was love or Alzheimer’s disease ruled in favor of romance.

Davidson County Circuit Judge Randy Kennedy granted permission Tuesday for an 83-year-old man who lost control of his financial affairs because he has a mild form of senile dementia to marry his 48-year-old fiancée.

Relatives of the man, Vic Varallo, have opposed the marriage saying his disease prevents him from understanding what he is doing. They claim his fiancée, Sheila White, has kept Varallo away from family and friends.

Others see the ruling as upholding the rights of the elderly.

“Today’s victory for Mr. Varallo restored dignity to him as a person and as a man,” said Nashville attorney Paul Housch, who represented White. The decision affirms that people his age “can carry on a fulfilling life, a happy life and be active and live in this world happy.”

A lifelong bachelor
Varallo is a former Nashville councilman and lifelong bachelor. His name is well-known in the city because his family once ran a popular chili restaurant.

Another judge appointed a conservator for Varallo’s financial affairs three years ago. That judge's order prohibited Varallo from entering into contracts, including the contract of marriage.

A doctor’s deposition in the latest case said Varallo has what appeared to be the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease but understands the concept of marriage.

Lawyers for Varallo also argued that White was willing to accept a prenuptial agreement and that Varallo still would have a conservator watching out for his finances.

“He knows what he wants,” said Varallo’s attorney, E. Covington Johnston. “This lady has been very good for him and taken care of him and he's very happy.”

The couple met in 1999. No wedding date has been announced.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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