A little over a week ago my gym, Atlantic Gymnastics, had it’s 20th year in business. The idea of the gym was hatched on a chairlift at Gunstock ski area. I was skiing with a friend who was also the parent of a gymnast I coached. He knew I was frustrated in my current situation.
I remember his words:
“Tony, you need to help me with something.”
I replied– “Sure- what’s up?”
“I made too much money this year. If I don’t invest some, I’m going to lose it in taxes. How about you and I open a gym?”
A few years later we bought him out of the gym. He managed our investments so that we had enough money to buy the business and property.
Our business is what it is today because of his advice and that he believed in us.
Tonight on my way back from teaching a USA-Gymnastics course I found out that Rohe Pennington had lost his courageous battle against cancer. The same cancer that took my brother’s life a year ago. I have trouble crying these days. I’ve cried a river of tears in the last year. My wife will have to cry for both of us. I’ve been looking through old photos and videos, reading comments left on his wife’s and kids Facebook page and and talking with mutual friends of ours.
We are all devastated by his passing. It will take me a few days to get enough of a grip on my emotions to really write about Rohe. I do this for my own mental therapy, and to hopefully share some things about Rohe with those who weren’t fortunate enough to know him.
Rohe was a tough business man. He gave me lots of advice through the years. ALL business is personal and ALL personal relationships is business.
But there was nothing nasty about Rohe. He was one of the smartest, funniest, kind and caring people I’ve ever had the honor of knowing. Rohe would give a friend the shirt off his own back.
When my wife and I had our first child, He was one of the first people to come to the hospital and congratulate us. Holding our daughter he said, “Hi, I’m your Uncle Rohe, I’m your stock broker” and presented us with stock in Disney for her.
When it was time for us to buy him out of our partnership in the gym and buy the property, he managed our investments to make it possible. Through Rohe I learned to Believe in myself because He believed in me and I would never do anything to disappoint him.
I lied when I said I would have trouble crying because I am crying now. I am crying for a personal loss in a friend but also the world has lost an inspiration.
When we formed our partnership in the gym he told my wife and I to get a good attorney. “Mine is expensive and they make their money outlining all the things we don’t want to talk about.” This was a great piece of advice. I have seen so many gyms struggle with personalities because they sealed things in a handshake. This is a great sentiment, but just pay the lawyers to do their jobs and in the end, your partners and you will still be friends.
I cherish the memories we shared together. Putting in equipment, Taking my first group of kids to Nationals, There are too many to recount here.
When I was first told that Rohe had Cancer, my heart dropped. He was so young, he was such a good person, he had a wife and kids. I was perplexed… How can this be??? But, none of that mattered. Cancer did not care about any of that. It got him. At first I was so scared for him but he sounded so positive and strong and so sure he was going to beat this thing. I believed he could fly… my wife would e-mail back and forth to him pretty often and whenever they “spoke”, he was positive and giving updates of success. Of golf games and miles ridden on his bike. Then things started to go the wrong way… the cancer began sucking his energy… Yet, when they e-mailed, he stayed positive and CONVINCING!
Its such a damn shame. So random, so ferociously final and with no mercy. All I can say is that he was a good man. He really was… not because he is no longer here but because he was a good man, a good father and a good husband, a good partner and a great friend.
Last Sunday he was feeling a little better and asked for some lime sherbet. He had a couple of bites. Then asked for the best Scotch Ellen (his amazing wife) could get her hands on. He took a few sips and closed his eyes.
Classy to the end my friend.
Please remember, that we NEVER know when it all comes to an end… but we all know it will end. Do not waste time with the stupid B.S. that life throws at you. In the end NONE OF IT MATTERS. What matters is family, friendship, relationships and love.
Rohe- Thanks for believing in me. I would never let you down.