ELLEN PENNEY GAMOT charged into this world on Monday, February 22,
1954, at Good Samaritan Hospital, West Palm Beach, Florida, to spend her
formative years with her father, Raymond “Ray” Emberly Penney, and
mother, Marion “Mel” Ellen Penney (nee: Lippold). On Friday, October 15,
2021, after a whirlwind 67 years, 7 months, and 23 days,
Melinda departed from her beloved 2 bar G Ranch, in Okeechobee, Florida,
to catch up with the love of her life, Albert, who had departed from
the same terminal on February 3, 2020, and continue their
rollicking adventures to places yet uncharted by those of us they left
Melinda grew up with her younger brother, Bill, on Thelma
Road in unincorporated West Palm Beach, Florida, a working-class
neighborhood. She attended Palm Springs Elementary School, Jefferson
Davis Junior High School, John I. Leonard High School, then on to Palm
Beach Junior College. Melinda excelled academically and socially, then
set off to change the world. She attended the only institute of higher
learning she believed capable of challenging her, the University of
Florida, where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree, with high
honors, in 1975. Continuing forward in her quest, Melinda received her
Juris Doctor, with honors, from the Levin School of Law at the
University of Florida, in 1978, and was admitted to the Florida Bar that
Melinda returned to West Palm Beach to begin her
career, joining the esteemed law firm, Cone, Wagner, et al, where she
was the second of two female lawyers in the firm. The other
female lawyer, none other than Rosemary Barkett, first female Chief
Justice of the Florida Supreme Court, and later a Justice on the United
States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Al Cone recognized the
requisite qualities a person needed to be a master legal practitioner.
He knew Melinda possessed those qualities. He took her under his wing,
schooling her in the fine art of civil litigation. Melinda referred to
Al Cone as, “the guy closest to true genius as I will ever meet.” As with all other aspects of her life, she was determined to exceed even her own expectations.
1981 something unexpected and extraordinary had occurred in Melinda’s
life. Unknown to us all, in April 2020, Melinda penned a brief biography
titled Chapter Two – Falling in Love. For the sake of brevity
and Melinda’s “get to the point” mantra, here are the highlights:
was in my third-year practicing law with a nationally respected trial
law firm. I thought I was rich, making a whopping $15,000 a year, plus a
new car. At that time in my life, the last thing I was wanting was a
committed relationship. I had the proverbial world by the tail, living
life to its fullest.
Then out of nowhere, I get a call from this
guy. Albert Gamot. We met a few years earlier, when one of my senior
partners left the firm to start a new firm with Albert.
We actually went out once, way back then. I thought
he was nice. Drove an SL 450 Mercedes, which was way cool. But if I
wasn’t ready for a relationship now, I certainly wasn’t a few years
prior. So out of the blue, he calls now. Would I be interested in
He must have caught me off guard. My usual defense mechanisms were off. I said, “yes.” The rest is history.
do remember the date: February 28, 1981. I do remember thinking this
was the guy I wanted to keep in my life. We ended up talking for hours
in my small two-bedroom rental apartment while my dog Harold and cat
Clarence checked him out. They liked him. That was enough for me.
talked on the phone the next few days, every day. I think we met for
drinks and maybe dinner. Then, he invited me to come to his home the
following Saturday to meet his family.
I guess he was as nervous
as I was. The afternoon of this special Saturday date he wasn’t paying
attention and rear-ended someone. He wasn’t hurt, but certainly
shook up. I came to learn later details were not his strong suit. He was
brilliant in so many ways but paying attention to drivers in front of
him was just something he hadn’t really mastered.”
continues writing about Albert, meeting his family, integrating the
people and pets into a cohesive unit, or as she writes, “one crazy, wonderful extended blended family”. She closes the bio with the following comment, “I told you I am the luckiest person in the world.”
Albert and Melinda married on November 15, 1981, officiated by then Circuit Judge Thomas E. Sholts.
Albert both possessed a love and affinity for animals - dogs, cats,
rabbits, chickens, cows, and horses. Melinda, however, connected with
horses on a higher level. Growing up, she was an active 4H kid, showing
her prized Brown Swiss cows at the South Florida Fair, and participating
in many events throughout Florida. When Melinda found her way onto a
horse’s back at a very young age, her competitive spirit ignited.
Melinda found her Zen on horseback - her state of calm attentiveness
where her actions were guided by intuition rather than by some conscious
In April 1999, Albert and Melinda took a giant leap
toward bringing a dream to fruition – purchasing the first of four
parcels of land on which to build their ranch, the 2 Bar G. Over
the past twenty-two years, with some professional assistance, they
created an 800+ acre working ranch paradise. They constructed a home,
barns, and stables, worked cows, built, and mended fences, mowed
pastures, and cleared property. They worked hard, got dirty, and loved
every minute of it. In April 2017 they took another giant leap, selling
their home on the Intracoastal in Jupiter and residing full time
Melinda was the consummate horsewoman. If there was
a sport involving a horse, chances are good Melinda give it
a try. She was a master in Western and English. Competed in barrel racing
and Eventing. She took great pride in her accomplishment of starting in
the local show circuit, moving to regional (South Florida), to state
(Florida State 4-H Horse Champion) to the national level, winning the
National Quarter Horse Queen Championship in her late teens.
She remained in the Quarter Horse arena well into adulthood, becoming a
judge at both the national and international levels. Melinda truly found
her niche when she crossed paths with the western- style equestrian
competition known as Cutting, which became her passion. She loved the events, but she loved the people she came to know even more. She was a steadfast competitor and award-winning rider.
and Melinda traveled the world, checking off their bucket list. They
were eclectic travelers: from first-class trips to many destinations in
Europe and Asia, with equally first-class dining, accommodations, and
entertainment, to week-long horseback adventures in the Wyoming
wilderness and other states, to the Australian Outback, to an African
safari sleeping under a mosquito net. Albert and Melinda made friends
and absorbed the positive energy everywhere
they went – except maybe when they were robbed in Paris and Italy!
and Albert were avid sports fans. It really didn’t matter which sports.
However, when it came to college football there were really only two
teams and one conference. Ole Miss alum, Albert, loved his Rebels - he
bled blue and red. UF alum, Melinda, loved her Gators – she bled orange
and blue. It’s the SEC! Sure, they watched a lot of other teams, but
they always rooted for the Florida teams playing out-of-state teams,
except of course if Ole Miss was playing any Florida team other than the
Gators. Oh, and the Kentucky Derby! The best family memories were those
made being together in the Grove and at a game at Ole Miss, at Ben Hill
Griffin Stadium for the Gators, even if you leave with some minor
hearing loss, and around the TV in their home.
Although she had
slowed her law practice down somewhat, Melinda was still a practicing
lawyer and mediator at the time of her passing. She loved being a lawyer
and it showed. She played by the rules because the rule of law matters.
She pushed the envelope when and where the enveloped needed a good
shove. Melinda worked hard to teach and mentor lawyers of all levels and
experience. She pushed female lawyers to seek their unlimited
potential. Something she understood and never allowed it to slow
Judges, magistrates, and other lawyers knew they needed
to be on their toes when Melinda walked into the courtroom or found her
name signed at the bottom of a letter or pleading. While not all her
colleagues may have been in her cheering section, they all knew Melinda
was a no- nonsense, straight shooter – and she was one hell of a shot.
her passing, her brother Bill and son-in-law Mark were conversing about
Melinda’s career, the impact she made in the legal community, and how
she will be remembered by judges, magistrates, and her fellow attorneys.
The answer was simple, “Revered and Feared”.
Some of Melinda’s many professional accomplishments:
Admissions: U.S. Supreme Court (2007); U.S. District Court; Southern District of Florida (1984); and Colorado Bar(1989)
& Memberships: American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers;
International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers; Susan Greenberg Family Law
American Inn of Court of the Palm Beaches
Florida Bar, Board Certified Civil Trial; Board Certified Marital and
Family Law; National Board of trial Advocacy
Florida Bar Family Law Section; Executive Council; Certification
Committee; Certification Review Seminar, Co-Chair; Bounds of Advocacy
Committee, Co-Chair; Ad Hoc Finance Committee; Family Law Legislation
Committee and Continuing Legal Education Committee; Marital and Family
Law Certification Committee, Fifteenth Circuit
Grievance Committee; Palm Beach County
Legal Aid Society Trustee & Board of Directors
County Bar Association: Long Range Planning Committee; Family Law
Committee; Robing Ceremonies Committee; Civil Court Advisory Committee;
Bench Bar Committee
Numerous speaking events and publications
awards and recognitions, including the Family Law Section of the
Florida Bar’s Visionary Award for outstanding service and invaluable
contributions to the advancement of Family Law in Florida, and her
vision and drive to push for, and implement change.
Melinda was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma – breast cancer. From the
day of that diagnosis, Melinda battled the beast. PET scans, radiation,
chemotherapy, cancer fighting drugs, homeopathic treatments. Akin to a
life-or-death football game, she gained a few yards, lost a few yards.
The beast periodically took its time outs, giving Melinda a
much-needed reprieve. But the beast kept coming back. Then came
half-time. Things were calm for a while. Looked like she would be
successful in the second half. She returned to the field ready for
the fight. But during half-time, the beast studied the moves on the
field during the first half. It left the locker room and onto the field
with a vengeance. The battle raged on, month after month. More PET
scans, radiation, chemotherapy, cancer fighting drugs, homeopathic
treatments, and experimental drugs. The gains on the field were fewer
and farther between. She fought harder, refusing to give up. She heard
Albert calling from the sidelines, telling her it was OK to call
it quits. She squared off with the beast one last time and stared
squarely and intently into its black lifeless eyes. She turned and
walked off the field to join Albert.
Melinda was predeceased by her parents Ray and Mel Penney, and beloved husband, Albert J. Gamot, Jr.
of us left behind to cherish so many memories of our times with Melinda
are stepdaughters: Nicole Gamot (Mark Murray), and Colette Gamot;
brother: William “Bill” Penney (Karen). She was “Mimi” to her
grandchildren: Paige Murray, Ethan Murray, Albert Jean Gamot- Reed,
Gertrude Gamot-Reed; and “Auntie Id” to her Nieces: Lindsay Penney
Burcham (Jason); and Sammie Penney Kalain (Kody); and Nephew, Carl
Penney. Also grieving are her relatives from the Penney, Lippold, and
Gamot families; adopted nephew, Jason Feltz (Christina);
Lee, Holly, and Sydney Francois, and
Dr. Kevin Inwood, Sarah Poole, and Rielly.
A very special
recognition to Mr. Enrique Badilla. His knowledge, skill, honesty,
integrity, and spirit helped transform the Two Bar G Ranch into Albert
and Melinda’s dream of Heaven on Earth. We unanimously concur!
very special recognition to Mr. Cab Butts for all his hard work and
determination bringing the 2 Bar G Ranch to a viable and respectable
cattle operation. They couldn’t have done it without you.
special thank you to Dr. Turgeon, Chaplain John Thybault, all the
nurses, and staff at VITAS Hospice Care, Port St. Lucie, Florida. You
did so much to ease Melinda’s suffering through her transition
will be sorely missed by many, and we apologize if you were not
mentioned. So, from Melinda to her fellow lawyers, “Just because your
name’s not listed in my Obituary, it doesn’t mean you were actually
forgotten. You’re probably just on the other list!”
energy was boundless, and she never stopped. Whenever we suggested she
should slow down and take a break, her standard response was, “I’ll
sleep when I’m dead!” So, wherever she is, we doubt she’s sleeping, and
as it is likely she is with Albert, they may be driving around in the
middle of the night checking convenience stores so Albert can satisfy
his craving for a hot dog!
The greatest gift you could give to
Melinda’s family is for you to share you stories about her. A box will
be present at the celebration for you to drop us a note with your story.
Those unable to attend, please e-mail them to us to:firstname.lastname@example.org.
family invites those who would like to join us in celebrating her
amazing life will take place on Sunday, October 24, 2021, beginning at
4:00 pm, at the Wyndham Grand Jupiter at Harbourside Place, 122 Soundings Avenue, Jupiter, Florida 33477. Attire is resort casual.
Those unable to attend in-person, please join us by Zoom: bit.ly/3Ggkb6i or Facebook Live: fb.me/e/1f8PAeZmk
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Melinda’s name to the following:
Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, 423 Fern Street, Suite 200, West Palm Beach, Florida 33401
University of Florida Levin College of Law, 309 Village Drive, PO Box 117620, Gainesville, Florida 32611
Palm Beach County Extension 4-H, 559 N. Military Trail, West Palm Beach, Florida 33415
If you wish to send flowers, please contact Creative Flowers - 561-277-9102