ROMEO is alive and well in New Milford
They call themselves ROMEOs.
On any given weekday morning, three to 10 area ROMEOs can be found at the Route 7 Deli solving the world's problems, talking and just having fun.
These "Retired Old Men Eating Out," a group of guys from Sherman, Brookfield and New Milford, start their mornings with camaraderie and a few laughs.
They are part of an international phenomenon.
"It's not uncommon to see women get together for lunch, to go to a movie -- it's natural for them," said Ralph Toscano, a retired teacher. "But men have a difficult time organizing their schedules to get together.
"Ours is an unorganized get-together, yet set in some ways."
There are ROMEO clubs across the country associated with church groups, national organizations, senior centers and homeowners' associations.
Some have websites and all meet in coffee shops or restaurants for breakfast or lunch at least once a week.
Internationally, there are ROMEO clubs in Israel, Malaysia and Canada.
New Milford's own ROMEOs came together less formally.
"When the Patisserie closed about four years ago, we started coming to the Route 7 Deli," Mr. Horrocks said.
"We met these characters and the other guys occasionally stopping in. As the group we are now, we began meeting mornings then."
Nico and Angela Lamrakis, owners of the Route 7 Deli, welcome the ROMEOs. Mrs. Lamrakis considers herself a "lucky gal" to see their smiling faces regularly.
"We solve the world's problems, check in on what everybody's doing for the day, and then meet the next morning to see if everybody got their previous day's tasks done." Mr. Horrocks said. "Usually, none of us have."
"Al lives right over the town line in Brookfield, but he's close enough that we tolerate him in the group," Mr. Brush said.
"Yeah, they told me to be sure and shower and shave for today's picture," Mr. Horrocks said, noting this is what he "has to put up with."
Mr. Marazita has been a regular at the Route 7 Deli since Rich and Nancy Davis started selling bagels at the location 14 years ago.
It was natural to see Mr. Adams, then working for CL&P, or George Pineman, owner of Pineman Signs, on a given morning over those years, he said.
Bagels, coffee and an occasional "exotic" turkey and egg white sandwich on whole-wheat toast starts the day for these ROMEOs.
"The reason we come here is because they let us stay for 90 minutes," Mr. Brush said. "My wife, Dolores, says, `Oh, you're going down to waste another morning with those guys?'"
"I stop in once a week to see what I missed," Mr. Adams said.
"It all really started because one guy stopped in for coffee, then another stopped by and saw him, then another," Mr. Carollo said.
Mr. Pineman is referred to by the guys as "The Grand Dragon" of the group.
Most of the ROMEOs are retired; a few are semi-retired.
The ROMEOs' respective "Juliets" are wives Gunilla Horrocks, Debbie Carollo, Dolores Brush, Peggy Adair, Sally Adams, Noreen Toscano, Ann Marazita, Karen Pineman and Jane Fitch, whose husband Curt Fitch is an occasional ROMEO.
"The reason we come here is because they let us stay for 90 minutes. My wife, Dolores, says, `Oh, you're going down to waste another morning with those guys?' "
A New Milford ROMEO