Rocky Yeh is suddenly gone, leaving an entire industry struggling
with how to process his life and his impact on so many people.
Although I first met Rocky six years ago, it was only the
last year I really got to know him. To sit with him 1-on-1, tell stories, strategize,
and muse on the past and the future. That’s when I came to realize just what a
modern-day renaissance man Rocky Yeh was.
We often say that someone is a force of nature. But if you hadn’t
met Rocky, you haven’t really experienced what the term means. Countless episodes
will be recounted of his jaw-dropping escapades. Going topless at Tales; Camp
Runamok’s Benevolent Dictator; ordering the entire menu at group dinners.
Those episodes will surely get you known. But what really speaks
to how larger-than-life Rocky was is that everybody who knew him has their own personal
set of equally breathtaking Rocky experiences.
Many will speak of Rocky’s devotion to the people and the
industry that he loved. How incredibly proud he was to be part of the Maison
Ferrand family. What a stellar ambassador he was for the rum world.
All of these are true. But perhaps my most lasting memory of
Rocky was his deep curiosity and vast treasure of knowledge that he so willingly
shared. A memorable conversation we shared was whether all British Navy ships
still had a cask of rum on hand, should the Queen ever order “Splice the mainbrace”.
He said they did, I said they didn’t. You never knew what arcane topic Rocky was
an expert in.
I was deeply impressed with Rocky’s devotion to social causes.
Although he didn’t write epic posts that often, when he did, they were articulate,
well thought out, and impossible to ignore. The man was much more than the
pineapple suit and public persona.
His generosity was also legendary. A few months ago, and unprompted,
he flew me to Seattle just to have lunch with him and take part in the Rumba
and Devil’s Reef popups.
When my son passed away, it was Rocky who brought Carrie and
I a smorgasbord of amazing food. Along with a bottle Stiggins’ Fancy,
naturally. Countless small acts of kindness and humanity endeared him to so
My last experience with Rocky was last month at Rumba, fittingly.
It was an event for my book, and Rocky sat patiently nearby, make sure things
ran smoothly. He had his nose in his phone much of the evening, but whenever the
conversation got interesting, he interjected the perfect response without missing
a beat. He and I went out for a late dinner following the event – pizza, of course.
I remember standing on the corner afterwards, waiting for our ride share. I wish
I’d hugged him a little longer.