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Published: Wednesday, 10/12/2011

Joshing on the menu for retiree group

Longtime friends gather weekly for lunch

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
the blade/dave zapotoskyChuck Helburn of Sylvania Township, standing, joins Joel Weinberg of Monclova Township, left, Ron Black of Perrysburg, and Jerry Cooper of Sylvania Township at a Sylvania restaurant. The Romeo -- Retired Old Men Eating Out -- group has been meeting about a dozen years. the blade/dave zapotoskyChuck Helburn of Sylvania Township, standing, joins Joel Weinberg of Monclova Township, left, Ron Black of Perrysburg, and Jerry Cooper of Sylvania Township at a Sylvania restaurant. The Romeo -- Retired Old Men Eating Out -- group has been meeting about a dozen years.
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Romeos, Romeos, wherefore art thou, Romeos?

On any given Wednesday afternoon, the Romeos could be in Whitehouse or Waterville, Perrysburg or Sylvania, Toledo or Maumee.

These Romeos -- Retired Old Men Eating Out -- have been meeting weekly for lunch for a dozen years. And they don't get together because they are hungry at the same time.

They chew over politics. They dish out one-liners. They cook up solutions to the world's problems. They talk. A lot. About surgeries, illnesses, birthdays, grandbabies, obituaries, sports, the weather.

"We talk about everything. Everyone has an opinion," said Ron Black of Perrysburg.

He and other Romeos most certainly discuss age-related topics, such as what might happen to Social Security in the coming years. They kid each other about memory, or more specifically, about lapses in memory.

It is Mr. Black who reveals the Romeos' motto: "The older we get, the better we were."

Most obvious: They're glad to be alive.

"It is better to be seen than to be viewed," quips Norty Weisberg of Sylvania Township as the Romeos settle in for lunch at a Sylvania restaurant.

It's a fun bunch, and the Romeos genuinely seem to like each other.

OK, the Democrats like each other; they say they put up with the only Republican Romeo, Jerry Cooper of Sylvania Township, who arrived a little late, and wouldn't you know it, he didn't have a tardy slip from his mom.

A chorus of "Hey, look who showed up" greets Mr. Cooper, and it's pretty impressive that he got there at all, the others say.

Wait for it. … typically they don't tell the Republican where the Romeos are going to meet (laughter). Or he forgets the date (more laughter).

Razzing remarks zing across the tables regularly.

So, who are these Romeos?

Several were teachers in Toledo Public Schools. And there are two pharmacists, a police officer, a jeweler, an electrician, an insurance man, a corporate executive, a university professor, and "a partridge in a pear tree," sings out Mr. Weisberg. With such a diverse group, "That's how we can settle the world's problems," he said.

Romeos also include Burt Callif, Dave Shall, Harvey Weinman, Irwin Friedman, Bill Sherman, Chuck Helburn, and Jerry Levison, all of Sylvania Township, Bill Goldstein of Springfield Township, Harvey Wolff of Sylvania, Joel Weinberg of Monclova Township, and Carl Brywczynski of West Toledo,

Bill Goldstein of Springfield Township joins in the laughter. Among the group are pharmacists, teachers, and a police officer. Bill Goldstein of Springfield Township joins in the laughter. Among the group are pharmacists, teachers, and a police officer.
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Mr. Brywczynski, a retired Toledo police officer, announces "I'm the baby" when he learns he's the youngest Romeo at age 63. Most Romeos are in their 70s; four are in their 60s.

Several factors go into whether the retirees show up -- whether you have a doctor's appointment, whether you can recall what day it is, "whether your chest is hurting at the time," Mr. Brywczynski says.

They mean no disrespect to anyone with health or memory problems. Romeos as court jesters? Call that coping with aging. Or laughter the best medicine. Just don't call it mean spirited.

Although good friends, they don't come bearing gifts on holidays or on each other's birthdays.

"That would be something women would do," says Mr. Black, who points out the value of the group's camaraderie. "When you are retired, it is important to maintain social relationships. It is very important. I think women have an easier time doing that than men do."

These guys work at keeping their friendships steel strong. Not only do they lunch together, but some play poker or go to football games or visit the Toledo Museum of Art together.

Mr. Levison says several Romeos grew up together in the Old West End and attended Fulton School and Scott High School. Others graduated from DeVilbiss, Macomber, or Rogers, and some moved to this area after graduating from high schools out of state, or in Mr. Weisberg's case, out of the country; he's from Canada.

When asked if the group elects officers, the response from Mr. Bry- wczynski is "Oh, golly no."

How exclusive is this group? Are there membership requirements?

"You walk in, you show up, and you're in," says Mr. Shall.

At the end of each luncheon, Mr. Sherman, who is the unofficial leader and charter member, suggests where to have lunch next, and then a vote is taken.

Do they tip the servers well?

"Yes, we give them tips … don't bet on the horses," says Mr. Shall. Rim shot.

Romeos haven't, but perhaps they should, run some numbers. Mr. Cooper estimates they have "hundreds" of kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids. Years married? Perhaps 500 or more. Several Romeos have been married a half-century or longer.

They share common interests, such as traveling. Some travel extensively; others not so much, and they list names of places they have been, towns they have toured -- Maumee, Perrysburg, Bono.

If the Romeos ever want to go back to work, might we recommend careers at a comedy club?

"We joke around. We pick on each other. We're an interesting group. Surprisingly, we all get along," says Mr. Callif.

And that's why they look forward to Wednesdays, their luncheon day, until a voice calls out "Romeo, your table is ready."



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