With his long white beard and jean jacket, looking like a hippie from the 1960s, Gerald Christian Romig III definitely stood out in Chestnut Hill. He drove a car festooned with stickers and a flying American flag, and did not take himself too seriously, but his buddies took their friendship very seriously. Romig, called Chris by family and friends, died suddenly and unexpectedly of a massive heart attack while walking his beloved huskies Cody and Chubbs on the afternoon of March 16. He was 61.
“He was a real gem, very philanthropic,” said George Hobe, a longtime friend and owner of his eponymous antique shop on Germantown Ave. “I saw him the day before he died in George Forde's living room. He had a great heart. I am moved to tears when I think about him.
“He used to say I came from a really good family, and I'd say that he did, too,” Hobe continued. Romig had a gruff voice and would gesticulate to get a point across, said Hobe, who called him a “very gentle guy.” He'd say, 'Mr. Hobe, you are a pillar of our aid community. I don't want to see you go anywhere.'
After Romig died, his daughters Sarah and Madeline came to visit Hobe at his store. “I was crying,” Hobe said. “They said they wanted to offer me their condolences when it should have been the other way around.”
The antique dealer went on to describe his friend as “a character” who “carried a jug around that was filled with two-thirds wine and one-third water.” Romig began buying paintings at Hobe’s shop about eight years ago, and the two became good friends, often seeing each other five times a week.
Romig’s death is the second unexpected tragedy for the family in less than a year. Chris Romig’s sister, Wendy Romig Concannon, a professional photographer who owned a studio at the northeast corner of Germantown and Willow Grove Avenues, died on July 7, 2022, of ovarian cancer, at age 57. More than 600 people attended her memorial service at St. Paul's Episcopal Church. Wendy's husband, Michael, told us at the time that most of Wendy's friends did not know about her disease because “she did not want cancer to define her.”
“I sat next to Wendy when I went to Chestnut Hill Academy (CHA),” said George Forde, Chris Romig’s close friend and a computer whiz who created the Chestnut Hill Business Association website several years ago. “Wendy was super-nice. I had a little bit of a crush on her, as did a lot of boys … The whole Romig family was a force of nature.”
Forde added, “I went to CHA, and Chris went to Penn Charter, but we were friends way back then. He was very unconventional. I must admit we got into trouble back in the day, but he was a totally good soul. He loved animals and was so proud of his girls.”
Chris worked on the Woodward homes, fixing just about anything that needed fixing. “And he was a very rugged guy,” said Jennifer Angelo, another close friend. “He fell off a cliff near the statue of (American Indian chief) Tedyuscung in the (Wissahickon) Park, but he was not hurt that bad. He dug a hole for our cat when he died. Chris would give you the jacket off his back.”
In addition to his daughters, Romig is survived by Clare Hedrick, the mother of his daughters, his siblings, Scott Romig and Meredith Romig Russell, brother-in-law Michael Concannon, nieces and nephews and many friends. His mother, Judith Scott Romig Haab, and father, Gerald Christian Romig Jr., are deceased. Romig was laid to rest next to his grandmother and grandfather Romig in a private ceremony on March 22.
His family wrote that “in Chris’ memory, consider taking a long walk in the Wissahickon and immersing yourself in the beauty of nature. Make friends with a stranger. Show kindness to someone in need. Put on your favorite song and let it take you away.”
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Project HOME, a Philadelphia nonprofit that provides housing, education and employment to unhoused people.
Len Lear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org