It is with great sadness that I inform you that Great Race veteran Rock Rookey has passed away after a brief battle with cancer. Rock has been a navigator for the last decade, smiling all the way, as he and Larry Tribble made their way across every part of the country in a 1955 Chevrolet. He was an accomplished SCCA racer and an avid motorcyclist. I visited Rock at his home in East Windsor, Connecticut this time last year and was impressed with his collection of vintage motorcycles (see attached photo). Rock’s obituary is below, including tomorrow’s funeral arrangements, and includes his full list of accomplishments and a great photo of him with his Great Race hat on. His smile and positive attitude will be missed, and although he is gone far too soon it is comforting to know he did live a full and exciting life.
Rockwell T. Rookey, 69, of East Windsor passed away on Saturday, September 3, 2022, at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford. Born October 25, 1952, in Springfield, MA, son of the late Rockwell and Helen (Papafil) Rookey. He is survived by his partner, Marcia Hughes of East Windsor; his siblings, Ronald Rookey and wife Marcy of Suffield, Rodney Rookey and partner Karen Dardanelli of Suffield, and Evangeline Christian and husband Karl of West Suffield; a cousin who was like a brother, Brian Stephenson of East Windsor; nieces and nephews, Crista Rookey and partner and son, Justin and Van Houseman, Ralle Rookey and wife Lauren Rookey, and Kate and Ryan Rookey; and Marcia Hughes’ daughter, Jessica McNeil and husband Joseph and their children, Maci and Daisy McNeil.
Rockwell, “Rock”, spent the first ten years of his life in Enfield before moving to Suffield in 1962. After graduating from Suffield High School, Rock attended Norwich University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering in 1975. He quickly became a well-respected civil engineer in the industrial flooring industry which grew throughout his career until “retiring” in 2012, after which he continued with consulting projects, volunteer projects, and many personal hobbies.
The motto for Norwich University was “I will try”, which Rock certainly lived up to throughout his life of trying many, many things. His avid passion for motorsports started as a young child after rebuilding a minibike found in the rubble of the Old Enfield-Suffield bridge. As soon as he could, Rock began racing autocross in his Porsche 914, followed shortly after with finding a calling with road racing. He quickly made a name for himself in a number of racing organizations, the SCCA, the HRG, and earned Rookie of the Year with the Porsche Club of America. Rock kept meticulous care of his beloved ‘73 Porsche 911 which he raced for nearly three decades before venturing into the world of road rally as a navigator in The Great Race over the past decade. When not at the track, Rock could almost always be found in the garage, tinkering on cars and motorcycles alike. Rock never backed down from a challenge, no matter how big or how small. His love for learning, resourcefulness, respectable record keeping, and get-it-done approach kept him busy with multiple projects at a time while rarely did he let anything go unfinished.
Rock was a true adventurer with a love for travel, arguably beginning with an 11-month road trip to California in 1977. After blowing the motor in his Porsche 914 only a few days into the trip, in true Rock fashion, he was back on the road just three days later after sourcing and swapping a new engine in the parking lot of a local garage. Since then, Rock has logged hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of miles on his motorcycle throughout the US, becoming an official member of the “Iron Butt Association”. Travel did not end at the bounds of the US – he enjoyed motorcycle excursions in nearly every continent, including through the Himalayas and the Andes, India, Canada, New Zealand, Patagonia, and much, much more. Along the way, Rock’s sociable and charming energy resulted in befriending people from all over the world, from a wide range of different backgrounds.
After retiring in 2011 at the age of 59, Rock did anything but relax. In addition to the continuation of his many adventures, he dove deep into his passion for original Indian Motorcycles, ultimately becoming the treasurer of The 101 Association as well as finding his very-own 1928 Indian Scout. He was an active member of the British Iron Association of CT and was voted as Rider of the Year. As a long-distance rider on a BMW, he was also a member of the BMW Club. Most recently, he was a leader in helping his brother Ronald rebuild his ’63 Ford Galaxie.
Rock was exceptionally proud of the projects he accomplished working as a professional engineer for the University of Hartford’s Engineers Without Borders. Most notable, Rock provided training and technical assistance on the development of a multi-grain thresher, facilitating three interconnected business markets in rural Western Kenya: fabricators of the thresher, distributors of the machine, and production of grain as a cash crop by small-scale farmers. Working alongside his partner, Marcia, the two further developed their own relationship and built a beautiful life together over the past decade. They shared a passion for their abundant vegetable garden, beekeeping, their social work in Kenya and India, and travel. Some of their favorite trips included a vacation to California, a motorcycle trip around Ireland, and multiple motorcycle trips to Canada to visit Marcia’s daughter and two granddaughters.
Rock’s welcoming energy, kind ‘do no wrong’ demeaner, and gentle humming will be missed by friends and family. It was clear that the values most important to Rock were family, community, and making a genuine connection with others. Anyone who had the honor of meeting Rock knew that he was very open and accepting – a conversation with Rock quickly revealed his thoughtfulness and sincere interest in the people and world around him.
His family will receive friends on Thursday, September 8, 2022 from 2-4 PM and 6-8 PM at Nicholson & Carmon Funeral Home, 443 East St. N. (Rt. 159), Suffield. Family and friends may gather at 9:00 AM at Nicholson & Carmon Funeral Home followed by 10:00 am funeral services at St. Luke’s Greek Orthodox Church, 400 Prospect St., East Longmeadow, MA. Burial will be in St. Joseph Cemetery, Suffield. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to: Native American Rights Fund (NARF), (303) 447-8760, 1506 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80302. To leave on-line condolences please visit www.carmonfuneralhome.com.
4 comments about “Great Racer Rock Rookey Passes Away”
Always enjoyed chatting with him along the great race and an throughout the rest of the year surely going to miss him
Rock generously donated his time and experience to the Central Connecticut State University X-Cup team whenever we needed his assistance. We will miss his big smile and bigger heart.
Rock was a good friend, our mentor and encouragement in the Great Race.
I first met him in 2017 at the NERC Beach Lake, then 2018 Round Erie, 2018 and 2022 Great Race.
Rock’s big smile, generous good nature and advice always helped us along
RIP Rock, good friend, we miss you and remember you.
david wells and Peter McGuire
Rock turned out to be a good friend and a friendly face whenever I had a bad day. Navigator to Navigator we understood the pressure of navigating the Gret Race.
Rest in Peace my friend.