Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

OH, THOSE ROMEOS; Old Guys (and They Admit It) Just like to Eat

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

OH, THOSE ROMEOS; Old Guys (and They Admit It) Just like to Eat

Article excerpt


PONTE VEDRA BEACH -They claim they're not trying to solve the world's problems at lunch.

But if anyone was, this handful of retired guys in high-backed chairs at a table inside TPC Sawgrass Clubhouse wouldn't be off to a bad start.

Among the eight white-haired gents placing lunch orders on a Monday afternoon are former top executives in the oil and gas, trucking, aircraft, insurance, steel and aluminum businesses.

The fellas didn't get a round table this time, which they prefer. They'd rather squeeze shoulder to shoulder, where each can easily pipe in with his point of view.

But not to worry. They'll still trade plenty of opinions over orders of toasty club sandwiches and juicy burgers. And none would complain about any time reserved for blunt talk in an invitation-only fraternity. They're the ROMEOs, short for Retired Old Men Eating Out, a local chapter of a club that's all over the country.

But back to the food for a second.

Max Booke, a 93-year-old former aircraft company executive, opts for the healthy and special-orders a wedge salad. The waitress obliges without a split-second's hesitation, but the ribbing starts when his mountain of lettuce arrives.

"Max, you have to eat it all, like a good boy," someone teases from down the table.

This crowd can be like what you might find around a family's dining room table on any given holiday. Only those who really love you can get away with that type of talk without someone using Grandpa's cane as a weapon.

"It hasn't caused anyone to start swinging or say any nasty things," George Friedlander, an 84-year-old former insurance brokerage owner, said of their interactions.

That may be because there are rules that members use when adding to their ranks. All the guys live at Jacksonville's Cypress Village retirement complex, where many also are active on the resident council.

But address alone doesn't qualify you for consideration into the club, according to group organizer Clark Fuller. The 86-year-old former international oil company executive got things going when he moved to the area from Savannah about 15 years ago. …

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