CLINTON ROMIGWhen Katrina struck New Orleans, I thought of Clint and Dot Romig, who lived in Mandeville, La., three miles off Lake Pontchartrain, which, according to news reports, was flooding.
Phone calls to the Romig home went unanswered. All phone lines were down. I knew that several of the Romig sons lived in the New Orleans area, but reaching them was futile. I knew that Clint's oldest son, Chris, was a retired Army colonel living in the Washington, D.C., area.
I phoned the U.S. Army in Washington, asked for the officer of the day, and a Captain Davis answered. I told him that I was trying to reach Colonel Chris Romig who lived in Virginia and that I was very concerned about his parents, whom I could not reach in the New Orleans hurricane.
He responded, "I will conference you to Col. Romig's home." Chris knew me, told me that his mother and father were driving 1,500 miles to his home in Virginia and that they were both safe.
I did not reach Clint until 10 days later.
Three huge uprooted trees had landed on his roof. I could hear chainsaws cutting the trees and it took a 50-ton boom truck to remove them. I asked Clint, "Can you get food?"
"Not too much," he replied.
So what does a New York buddy think of?
I sent Clint and Dot a box with a dozen New York bagels, a pecan coffee ring, cheddar cheese, Jarlsberg cheese and a package of knockwurst. I knew that the bagels would lift Clint's spirits.
I first met Clinton J. Romig when we were both members of CPA Associates, the first group of accounting firms in the U.S. and abroad. (It is still in existence with 148 firms worldwide.)
Clint was a partner in a leading CPA firm in New Orleans, LaPorte, Sehrt, Romig & Hand. Clint's specialties were in banking, restaurants and retailing. He was active in the accounting profession, served as president of the Louisiana State Society of CPAs, president of the New Orleans chapter and member of the American Institute of CPAs Council.
Clint Romig was a pioneer in peer review. His experience as a senior auditor in diverse industries qualified him to review the work of other CPA firms all over the country. His affable personality, skill and experience were assets in this endeavor. He was chairman of the National Conference of CPA Practitioners Peer Review Committee, as well as a captain under AICPA peer review rules for many years.
Clint and I soon became good friends. I liked his New Orleans accent, which to me sounded like a slight Southern drawl with a touch of Brooklyn (sorry, Clint). But the most impressive and joyful part of our friendship were the many trips to New Orleans. Claire and I love Bourbon Street with its Al Hirt trumpet sending vibrations up and down the street. Clint and Dot took Claire and me to their client Brennan's for breakfast, to their client Leruth for dinner, and at midnight to that great New Orleans institution on the Mississippi, Café Du Monde, for beignets and coffee.
On one occasion, Clint and Dot invited Claire and me for an overnight stay at their home. The evening before Clint had taken us to his son Greg's gourmet shop, where he ordered bagels (frozen) and smoked salmon for morning breakfast. Dot served bagels and lox to the four of us, and I was impressed when I saw Clint eating his bagel and lox with a knife and fork.
I became active in CPA Associates, served on various committees and was elected president, and when I finished my term, Clint Romig followed me as president - cementing our friendship.
I served on the AICPA Council for nine years and became an advocate for local practitioner's rights. One day I was surprised by a phone call from Ivan Bull, then AICPA chairman and a partner in a local Iowa CPA firm - it has since merged into McGladrey & Pullen LLP - to meet him for lunch at the Rainbow Room in Rockefeller Center. I was further surprised when we were joined by Harry Mancher, then treasurer of the AICPA and a partner in S.D. Leidesdorf & Co.
The discussion amazed me.
Both Bull and Mancher complained that when they needed representation in foreign cities and requested assistance from one of the major firms, they were surprised when the big firms solicited their client. Why were they telling their story to me? I think I knew. (I was being treated to a great lunch and I got the message.)
On the following day, I contacted the Statler Hotel in Washington, D.C., and arranged for a meeting room with a large hollow square table to seat 50 persons. I invited 50 friends from all sections of the U.S. On the day of the meeting, Washington was hit by a raging snowstorm and to my delight, all 50 invitees showed up, including Clint; John McMullen of Atlanta; Maxine Young of Ft. Wayne, Ind.; Irwin Pomerantz of Los Angeles; Robert Israeloff of Valley Stream, N.Y.; Harry Linowes of Washington, D.C.; Jerome Fien of Newark, N.J.; Ralph Rehmet of Great Neck, N.Y.; Harold Kaufman of New York; and others.
From 9:00 a.m. to noon every person spoke freely - it was a great demonstration of the voice of the people!
I had arranged for lunch at noon in an adjoining room, which was attended by about 100 persons. I had invited Congressman James H. Scheuer, the then-chair of the House Small Business Committee, to address the group. In addition, I had also invited several government officials to the lunch, including James Nelligan, staff director of the House Committee on Oversight and Investigation; John Chesson, counsel to the Senate Subcommittee on Reports, Accounting and Management; Sidney Baurmash, CPA, chief accountant of the Department of Commerce; Elliot Forgash, CPA, chief accountant of the U.S. Post Office; and others.
After lunch, we returned to the meeting room. Once again, there was a free and open discussion, and soon there was a consensus for a new national organization of local accounting firms. The National Conference of CPA Practitioners was born. "Ladies and gentlemen, we need a slate of officers," I said. Bob Israeloff came up to me and said, "I will nominate you for president."
"I'm going to nominate Clint Romig for president," I said. Clint was unanimously elected. John McMullen was elected vice president, Ralph Rehmet was elected treasurer and I was elected secretary.
Clint served as president of NCCPAP for several years and excelled in the position. The group hired David L. Lanman as executive director. Lanman had recently resigned from the AICPA.
Romig became an important player in the accounting profession representing the interests of local CPA firms. He was there at the beginning and he made his mark as an innovative, capable and likeable leader.
I spoke to Clint recently. He is now 82, plays golf three times a week and spends two days each week at the Southeast Louisiana Mental Hospital, where he distributes clothing at no cost to the patients. He also works at the Serra Club, which encourages young persons to become seminarians. I asked Clint how many grandkids he has and he replied, "15."
Clinton J. Romig has bequeathed a legacy of wisdom, charm and grace to his ever-growing family.
JOHN J. SEHRT JR.
John Sehrt joined the firm two years before Clint Romig. He participated in many fraternal groups, including the Kiwanis and the Rotary Club. But best of all, during Mardi Gras, he was a "King" on his organization's float, with his three pretty daughters waving to the throngs as the float lumbered down Canal Street in New Orleans. Mardi Gras was special in New Orleans and one never knew what surprises would occur.
One Mardi Gras evening, Claire and I were standing in front of the Royal Orleans Hotel with Norman Stavisky of the CPA Associates' Boston firm. We were observing the passing scene, some of which was obscene, when we noticed a six-foot-three-inch transvestite wearing drag down to his ankles and a matching hat topped by an ostrich feather that made him seem even taller.
Norman was about five-foot-10, with broad shoulders. The big guy grabbed Norman under his shoulders, lifting him on his toes. Norman was helpless. The guy then planted a long kiss on Norman's lips, smiled and walked away. We were stunned. I asked, "Norm, how was it?" He answered, "Not bad."
Like Clint, Johnny was an avid golfer and his life's dream was to play at St. Andrews golf course in Scotland. John and three members of his Rotary Club flew to Scotland for a round of golf at St. Andrews. Johnny was on the 15th tee when he smashed a drive right down the middle and then fell to the turf. One of the foursome was a physician who tried Johnny's pulse and said, "He's gone."
Perhaps, in the universe of golfers' dreams, there is a desire to play at St. Andrews. Perhaps, the dream concludes with one playing his last hole at St. Andrews.
Eli Mason, CPA, is a past president of the New York State Society of CPAs, a past chairman of the New York State Board for Public Accountancy, and a past vice president of the American Institute of CPAs.
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