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All because two people fell in love…

An Anniversary Series: 25 People Who Have Influenced Me, My Career & Phantom

Who…  

The man who started it all (Phantom Screens, that is), Dr. Ernest Rooke.

He was always just Mr. Rooke to me though, as I met him far past his chiropractic days. When I started working for him and his two sons at the Panago Pizza Franchises as their inside accountant in 1988, it was to help Mr. Rooke do the books. Their businesses and number of them were beginning to create more work than he could handle.

Although it took many years after that before he would trust me with the payroll. That was his baby!

Dr. Ernest & Mrs. Doris Rooke

Although I worked closely in the office with Mr. Rooke, his dear sweet wife, Mrs. Doris Rooke would pop in to say “hello” once in a while – which is when I got to know her too. Fast forward close to 30 years later and life finds me having said a final good-bye to my business partner Mr. Rooke, who passed away in 2008 at the age of 86. But happily Mrs. Rooke, 94 is still living on her own in the same house, driving the same car and looking like 64 when I first met her.

Greatest Lesson I learned from him…

Maybe it was more the fact that working under him actually was a continuation of how I had been raised – just trade cows for pizza.

It was the same biblical principles which influenced ALL business principles – doing an honest day’s work and living within your means to name a few.

Just like my Dad, Mr. Rooke despised debt and late payments. But here was another aspect of Mr. Rooke I came to appreciate – it was the grace he would show when I messed up.

The first Rooke family enterprise was Abbotsford’s favourite restaurant – started in the early 70’s – Brownie’s Fried Chicken. If you lived around here, that was the place to take your family or hang out with your friends.

Along with the restaurant, they owned a significant portion of commercial land surrounding the building in mid-Abbotsford, where today’s Corporate Office for Panago resides. Yours truly forgot one year to pay the property tax bill on time to the city.

To say I was petrified to admit my mistake to Mr. Rooke was putting it mildly.

Not only because our payment to the city was going to be tardy but there also was a late penalty of over $4,000. Back then, it would’ve been very acceptable to be fired over this one costly mistake, but when I got the nerve up to admit my wrong to Mr. Rooke, he lavished me with his grace and never held it against me.

Did he give me a talking to?

You bet he did but then he let it go. Pure sweet forgiveness. And just to close off the story, I managed to write a convincing enough letter to the city based on the Rooke family’s impeccable reputation to please reverse the penalty.

If I could talk to him this very second, I would tell him…

“Thank you for instilling your faith values in me from a business perspective, and that your legacy lives on in Phantom Screens – honest hard work, paying bills on time and extending grace. And I miss our chats and being entertained by your remarkable story-telling gift, punctuated by your roar of laughter before you delivered your punch line.”

Long after he retired, he would come in to visit me at Phantom Screens in between Board meetings and sure shootin’, an hour or two would pass before we knew it.

And tomorrow, in his honour, Mrs. Rooke will stand with her son Brian and me, as we are joined by the Mayor of Abbotsford, Mr. Henry Braun, to cut the ribbon at our grand-opening ceremony of our newly expanded manufacturing plant and office.

Good thing we’ve been paying our property tax bill on time, eh?

We have winners! Congratulations to Peter, Mike, Jeret & Dana who have all won a Starbucks gift card for guessing Mr. Rooke was on my list!

 

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