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 of Stiggins’ Fancy, naturally. Countless small acts of kindness and humanity endeared him to so many.
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 shares.
I wish I’d hugged him a little longer.