Obituary: Ronald Angelo Rohm / Popular Entertainment Coupon Book founder
June 4, 1937 - April 25, 2014
April 27, 2014 11:11 PM
By Gretchen McKay / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
As one of the developers of the popular Entertainment Coupon Book sold by school children and community groups as fundraisers, Ronald Rohm made his living providing two-for-one discounts to consumers in hundreds of cities around the world. But when it came to reaching into his own wallet to help others, the Pittsburgh native never was a cheapskate.
A down payment on a house, a loan to get a troubled business owner through tough times, time off (with pay) for his employees to attend a school function -- he was generous almost to a fault.
"He just had a way with people," said his wife of 37 years, Barbara. "He gave and gave and gave. He was the most giving person on the face of the earth."
Mr. Rohm died Friday at Allegany Health Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Cumberland, Md., following a stroke. He was 76.
A resident of Mt. Lebanon before retiring to Florida in the late 1990s, he grew up in Brentwood, the oldest of three sons born to the late Elmer and Regina Rohm. While he dreamed of a career in business, his parents couldn't afford to pay for college on his father's truck driver salary. So after graduating from Brentwood High School in 1959, he enlisted in the Army.
Upon his discharge four years later, he took a couple of business classes at the University of Pittsburgh while working in the men's suit department at the former Joseph Horne department store on Penn Avenue, Downtown. It wasn't long before he decided his sales experience would be put to better use by going into business with his younger brother, Jim, who after getting out of the service in 1969 had gotten a job at Mon Valley Works' Irvin plant.
"He came to me and said, 'You've got to get out of the steel mill. We have to do something,' " Jim Rohm recalled.
That "something" would materialize in 1970 as the Three Rivers Passbook, a $12 coupon book that offered savings on entertainment, dining and sports facilities throughout the Pittsburgh area -- 375 two-for-one and 50 percent-off passes.
As luck would have it, one of his first price breaks turned out to be his own: A man who ate in the same diner as Mr. Rohm gave him $1,000 to get the business up and running.
"He told him to take it and live his dream," said his daughter, Denise Garasic of Charlotte, N.C.
The thick books proved so wildly popular that a friend soon lent Mr. Rohm $25,000 to develop the concept in Cleveland, where it also quickly became a runaway success. Before long, Michigan entrepreneur Hughes Potiker, who sold similar coupon booklets in Detroit, suggested they join forces.
In the early '70s, the pair developed the Entertainment Coupon Book. The company eventually expanded to 135 markets in the United States, Canada and Europe, becoming a mainstay in the fundraising world for the next five decades and raising $2.5 billion for charitable organizations in the process.
When Entertainment Publications went public in late 1980s, Mr. Rohm, who managed the East Coast operations, and his brother bought out seven cities, including Pittsburgh and Cleveland, and ran them on the sole ownership of Rohm Publications.
"He was always so proud of the money it raised for charitable organizations," said his daughter, who was his operations manager and assistant for 13 years.
He gave of his money and spare time so freely, she said, that in the late 1980s he was honored by the Italian Heritage Society as "Man of the Year."
He also served on the board of the Epilepsy Foundation of Western Pennsylvania, where as an avid golfer he helped raise millions of dollars for the nonprofit service organization through the annual Froggy's Golf Classic.
When he retired at age 60, Mr. Rohm moved with his wife to Fort Myers, Fla. A year and a half ago, they moved back north to Maryland, to be closer to family.
"His grandchildren were his life," said Ms. Garasic.
Mr. Rohm is survived by another daughter, Debra Frank of Cumberland, Md., sons Robert of Miami Beach, Fla., Mark of Anaheim, Calif., and Rick Fisher of Kane, Pa.; a brother, Gary Rohm of Pittsburgh; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
Visitation with the family will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday at Scarpelli Funeral Home in Cumberland, Md., followed by a memorial service. A celebration of his life will be held at 11 a.m. May 17 at the Allegheny Center Alliance Church, 801 Union Ave., North Side.
Gretchen McKay: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1419.
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