This column is a continuing series by Chef Peter X. Kelly of Xaviars Restaurant Group which runs every Thursday.
PIERMONT, N.Y. -- In the course of a lifetime we all should be lucky enough to meet a handful of people that leave an indelible impression on us. My dear friend Roger Hooker was one of those individuals. Roger passed away this past week but the humor and wisdom that he shared with all that knew him will never leave us.
Roger was bigger than life, a towering figure that was the center of every room he walked into. His genuine kindness and true interest in knowing “how are you doing” separated him from most others. A lawyer by profession, educated at Princeton, he served in the Ford administration as a very young deputy secretary of transportation.
Roger had a zest for life that was infectious, late nights discussing the arts or maybe politics or just family life were de rigueur and often included a dinner of his signature paella with plenty of adult beverages to wash it down. For me it’s hard to pick a favorite guest whom I’m always excited to see at the restaurant but Roger was that. For years he would stop by my Freelance Café in Piermont late at night if he saw the light on. We would share a nightcap and a laugh about the world as we saw it.
In 2009 Roger was confined to a wheelchair after a back surgery left him paralyzed from the waist down. Faced with the profound difficulty and extraordinary pain he suffered as a result, he never lost his sense of humor or care for all his family and friends. Rather, he learned to be self sufficient and often drove his massive electric wheelchair around the neighborhood visiting the community or meeting friends for a burger at The Filling Station on 9W in Palisades more than a mile away.
Merry Christmas my dear friend.