David Hellkamp was in Aruba when the idea hit him. “My wife and I were watching interviews of World War II vets,” says the professor of psychology. “And there was a guy in the Midwest who had started a ROMEO club—Retired Old Men Eating Out. I got such a kick out of it that I called Don Cosgrove, a retired professor in our department, and we started having breakfast every week.”
That was four or five years ago, and the group has now grown to eight members—not all of whom are retired—with the addition of Bob Hadden, John Dorfmeister, Robert E. Ryan Jr., Thomas S. Grogan Jr., Philip Breen, Paul F. Brinker and Ed Comer.
The ROMEOs meet every other Tuesday at the Café on the Pike in Norwood. “We’re kind of perceived as regulars,” Hellkamp says. “The waitresses know who takes decaffeinated or regular coffee, and they know our orders pretty well. It’s kind of an early morning ‘Cheers’ atmosphere with coffee rather than beer.”
But in a more serious light, Hellkamp says the regular breakfasts also serve to keep members in touch with one another and with the news of the day. They also occasionally involve themselves as a group in charity work.
“Most of us have known each other for many years,” he says. “We respect everybody’s opinion, and we listen. There’s a wealth of experience there.”