Group finds unique way to embrace retirement
By Meagan McGone
BREVARD - O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
Well, Brevard, our local beloved has been found in a group of eight men, ranging from ages 72 to 81, who call themselves ROMEO: Retired Old Men Eating Out.
They have tasked themselves with dining at local restaurants, sporting red shirts in support of the nation's troops and congregating every morning at Palm Gardens Golf Course in Melbourne in an effort to enjoy their lives as retirees together.
The group has been turning heads since its inception more than a month ago, as their red shirts with the ROMEO logo are tough to miss.
"Everybody wants to know what ROMEO stands for," said Dave Green, who is retired from his career as a 32-year computer programmer. "Wherever we go, we get a comment."
He said his wife has altered the group's name slightly and refers to the "R" in ROMEO as Ridiculous Old Men Eating Out.
"Some people call us raunchy old men or really old men," he said.
Despite the alternative meanings behind its acronym, ROMEO draws attention from the ladies, especially because several of the men are single.
"The younger women think it's cute, and the older women think its interesting - whatever that means," Mr. Green said.
The other heartbreakers include Joe Somma, who formerly worked for the federal government for 38 years; Tom Cole, a retired 35-year space program employee; Harry Gruenthal, a 22-year police officer for the New York Police Department; Wayne Gochenour, a former owner of a dry-cleaning business for 35 years; Paul Petrak, a car salesman for 18 years; Joe Dobbin, a space program employee of 32 years; and Doug Lorimer, a 34-year truck driver who calls himself a PROMEO.
"I still work part-time, so instead of kicking me out of the group, they call me a Part-time Retired Old Man Eating Out," Mr. Lorimer said.
ROMEO's first-ever luncheon was to the Palm Bay-based Brown Bag deli, which recently faced boycotts after the owner voiced his controversial opinions at a city meeting.
"We're here to support anybody who needs our help in the community," said Mr. Gruenthal, who is referred to as the organizer of ROMEO. "We want to serve the community in any way we can."
Since the first luncheon, the self-professed food critics have visited Hooters in Melbourne, Coasters Pub in Indian Harbour Beach, Ozzie's Crabhouse in Palm Bay and San Remo in Melbourne.
"Ozzie's food was very good," Mr. Gruenthal said. "We were very impressed with the service, too. All of the local restaurants have been great."
Though Mr. Gruenthal only recently brought his idea of getting the guys together for monthly luncheons donning red shirts to fruition, the members of ROMEO have been friends for more than 10 years. They said they owe it all to Palm Gardens Golf Course.
"We play golf every day," Mr. Gruenthal said. "This golf course is our home away from home."
ROMEO would be nothing without its Juliet, Eve Taylor, who has served as vice president of Palm Gardens for more than 30 years. She joked that she puts her psychology degree to use by lending an ear to the entertaining men, who drink coffee at the golf course's clubhouse every day, rain or shine.
"I'm thrilled they're doing this," she said. "They sit here and solve all the world's problems, and they come from all walks of life."
Mr. Green said he enjoys being a part of ROMEO because it allows him to "learn something new every day... though it not might be useful."
Mr. Somma said while the group hopes to get more involved in the community, it is not looking for new members and is unsure of how it will evolve just yet.
"Basically, we're just good friends and thought we'd do something out of the ordinary, something that makes us laugh," Mr. Somma said. "We're having fun, and that's what it's all about."