Reflecting on Rome’s remarkable life five years on from his passing. Our tribute to Rome from Slam issue 202, 2014.
Words by Trent Fahey. Homepage photo by Darren Kirby. Skate photography by Rome.
On the morning of August 22, 2014, Rachel Torti held her husband in her arms in what was to be their last warm embrace. Rome’s five-year battle with brain cancer was over. The 32-year-old father and friend to all breathed his last breath with his wife and son by his side in their Mermaid Waters home. He is now at peace. In a strange twist of fate, August 22 is also the birth date of Shane Cross. I can’t help but feel that Rome’s younger buddy came down to collect his old friend and take him to a better place.
Rome John Mario Torti was born on June 1, 1982, in the small north-western New South Wales town of Moree. He was the youngest child to Pietro and Jill Torti. Pietro (Peter) was born in Papua New Guinea to his Italian parents who moved to Australia in 1957 – hence, Rome was given his name in homage to his Italian lineage. Jill was born in Cirencester, England and immigrated to Australia with her family in 1949.
Peter and Jill married in 1982 and at the time they owned a service station in Gurley, which is 33 kilometres from Moree. After six months at the station, Peter hung up the fuel pump, moved into the construction industry and the Tortis headed north to Brisbane in 1983. They soon relocated to the Gold Coast where they found their solace and have called it home ever since.
At just five years of age, young Torti was transfixed when he saw someone whiz by on a skateboard. He had to have one. Jill and Peter purchased his first plank (a Cabellero, Dragon and Bats) from the Barties’ Deck Head Skate Shop and his lifelong obsession began. By the time Rome could read he would hassle his mother to buy him skateboarding magazines. Collecting was another obsession that would encapsulate his world. He would become a compulsive collector of anything skateboard related – predominately magazines, videos and classic decks.
In order from left to right: Little Romey, 1985 | On the shred, 1988 | Hottest guy at Nerang High, 1999.
Noseslide down a huge Hubba in Adelaide, 2005. Photo: Pete Solvyns.
Rome started his primary schooling at Guardian Angels in Southport. He then attended William Duncan at Highland Park for a short time, before settling at Mudgeeraba Primary. It was in the year 1995 when he entered high school at Nerang High that he took up a photography class. His teacher assessed his work and informed him that he didn’t have the knack. One trait of Torti’s that I must be very clear about was his dogged determination. When Rome put his mind to something, nothing could stop him. He loved a challenge and was adamant that he would prove his teacher wrong. He quit the class and enrolled in an after-hours photography course. “The longer he held the camera, the more obsessed he became with it,” his brother, Dave, fondly recalls. “Rome would make me redo a trick over and over. He was always experimenting with different angles and lighting.”
By the time Dave and Rome were fullblown skate rats they covered as much ground as they could in search of new terrain. Shredding around Southport was their staple, and they’d frequent spots like Robina High, Robina Ghetto Lands, the Corporate Centre, Surfers Paradise Esplanade and Ashmore Track and Field. The boys would also ride the railway wherever they could to some of their favourite “skate rinks” north of the Goldy, like Eagleby mini, Beenleigh skatepark and the Nudgee spine ramp. Rome liked to call skateparks "roller rinks".
Nexus was one of Australia’s most iconic skateparks from the mid ’90s to early 2000s, and the Torti brothers practically became permanent fixtures there. This is where I first met Rome and Dave and I distinctly recall them only skating the ledge at the park. They were street dawgin’ it – back and forth at the block. “Other skaters would call us the Girl crew because we only skated the block,” says Dave. “During the Nexus era, Rome decided I needed a sponsor-me tape. The first tape we put together was just single tricks with no lines. From that point on Rome really began to understand the editing side of skateboarding.”
Outside of skateboarding, young Torti didn’t care much for conventional sports, like footy, but basketball was his exception. Throughout primary school, he played regularly and joined the Nerang Bulls in high school and a father-and-son team called the Odd Socks. He was a natural b-baller and went on to represent the Gold Coast.
In order from top left to right: When Rome had dreads, 2007. Photo: Torti | Rome and Rachel’s wedding, 2011. Photo: Otten | Proud parents, Jill and Peter with their beloved son, 2012. Photo: Otten | Rome, Rach and Ryder, 2013. Photo: Torti
Rome was always renowned for his charm and boyish good looks. In his final year at high school, he was voted in as a prefect by his peers and eventually won the coveted “Hottest guy at Nerang High” award. Around seven or eight years ago, while on a night out in Surfers Paradise, he encountered a fan who was not shy to fawn over the half Italian stallion. “Is that Rome Torti?” she exclaimed with a Nerang twang in her voice. “Rome Torti! Hottest guy at Nerang High.” Her phone rang and she answered, “Nah, nah, shut up! You’ll never guess who I’m looking at. Rome Torti, hottest guy at Nerang High”. She ran her eyes over him from head to toe and proudly boasted, “Yeah, he still looks gooood”.
At the turn of the century, Rome picked up part-time work at Woolworths to afford new photography equipment. He also purchased his first car, a yellow 1974 Mazda 808 station wagon, and became somewhat of a chauffeur for his skate posse. Over the next nine years, Rome would own two more cars – a Ford Telstra and then a Nissan Pulsar hatchback. He’d pick up and drive around Gold Coast skaters to photograph them at their chosen spots every single day. With skate stickers splashed over every window, and Biggie blasting on his crackling car stereo, so many good times were had when Torti traversed the GC in his trusty steed.
It was also in the year 2000 that Rome’s first photo was published. The whacky surf-skate-snow crossover mag Crank ran a photo of Dave Torti doing a backside noseblunt slide on a picnic table.
My friendship with Rome really began in 2001 when we road-tripped to Port Macquarie to skate a new indoor park and then another trip to open a skatepark in Armidale. He spoke in his softly spoken manner, which is not typical among our skateboarder realm. His gentle disposition coupled with his quirky sense of humour made him a pleasure to be around. Rome became my friend.
At the time the budding photographer had just launched the first of his many ventures to come. “Rome star ted Deliverance Clothing in 2001 with a bunch of T-shirts and stickers,” remembers his good friend, Luke Attril. “He was right into Gravediggaz at the time, so he was stoked when he found a font called Gravedigger to use on the tees. The stickers were an epidemic at Gold Coast intersections, and I’m pretty sure there’s still one at Nobby's lights today. In true Rome fashion, he gave almost all of the product away without expecting any return.”
King of the no comply, Rome takes one backside 360. Sequence: Pat Dandy.
Rome saved any money that he actually made from Deliverance, and his job at Woolworths, and eventually it was enough for the bank to give him the green light for a $15,000 loan. He splurged on a new gun of a camera and all the photography artillery he had dreamt about. Rome was always a Nikon man.
Driven by the ambition to one day become one of Australia’s leading lensmen, Torti threw in the towel at Woolies so that he could focus on photography. His pictures were running regularly in Slam and the now defunct Australian Skateboarding Magazine. By late 2004, Rome and Luke launched their own publication, Prohibited. “With a ‘figure it out as we go’ attitude we managed to get two issues on newsagent shelves Australia-wide, which we were pretty damn proud of,” says Luke. “Putting the issues together consisted of me at my ridiculously slow laptop placing photos, while Rome chased up potential advertisers and photo contributors, in between scanning slides and video-game basketball. In the end, we achieved exactly what we set out to do. It was a clean and simple-looking depiction of the Australian scene, with a focus on the artistic quality of the photos.”
After the first edition of Prohibited hit the stands Rome was down to delve into the hardware industry. If photography and publishing wasn’t enough to keep him busy, starting his own board brand surely would keep him on his toes. “Rome was telling me about this handful of talented skaters he’d been shooting that he thought deserved to be on big-brand teams,” says Luke. “He said maybe their chances would be helped if they were seen to already be a part of a local team. So we formed Anatomy Skateboards in the hope of giving some of these guys that extra edge to get themselves to the next level. The original roster was Peewee (John Dickenson), Jimmy Roche, Aaron Rowe and Nick Wilson. Again, we took the cavalier approach and played it all by ear, getting the name out, and doing what we could to help some local shredders.”
By mid-2006, the third edition of Prohibited was ready for print, but didn’t make it to the press because the financial backers behind the mag pulled the pin. Rome reverted his focus to what he did best, snapping skateboarding, and in August 2006 he landed his first Slam cover. He really hit his stride shooting medium format and his pictures were perfectly on point. He even sent the photography teacher from his high school some of his work to put her in her place.
In early 2007, Rome held an exhibition of his photography with artwork from the legendary Lee Ralph. The then 24-year-old sharpshooter became a Slam Senior Photographer and we kept him busy capturing many of Australia’s best skateboarders. Rome had mastered the craft and he became our go-to guy to cover Queensland. At the close of ’07, Rome and Luke sold their last batch of boards. Many of the team guys secured deals with bigger brands, so they decided to fold Anatomy and focus on their own creative endeavours. Over the next couple of years, Rome was one of our most prolific photographers and secured four Slam covers.
In February 2009 Rome found true love – he discovered his soul mate. She was the woman he would marry and bear his child. Rachel and Rome shared many mutual friends, but it took a decade before their worlds would collide. Their courtship kicked into gear quickly, but roughly three months into the romance Rachel noticed something was awry. Rome became increasingly flaky and suffered some evident memory loss. Rachel encouraged him to see a doctor.
On May 19, 2009, Rome was given the devastating news that he had a disease that would ultimately take his life. He was told that he had a tumour the size of a lemon residing on the left side of his brain. The cancer was the most aggressive malignant tumour called Glioblastoma Multiforme. Doctors gave him three weeks to live.
Against all odds, Rome put up one hell of a fight. We have covered his battle with brain cancer every step of the way, so many of you would know that through the unwavering help of Rachel and an army of his family and friends he went to war with the giant growth and baffled every doctor in the business.
Over the next five years, Rome would undergo two bouts of surgery, coupled with chemotherapy, radiotherapy and more holistic treatments like oxygen therapy and heat therapy. He changed his diet radically to cut out the sugar and acids that tumours feed on, and Rachel researched every available herbal medicine and supplement to build his immunity to combat the cancer.
Ryder, 2013. Photo: Rome Torti.
It is during what would seem the darkest years of Rome’s life that he shone so incredibly bright. After doctors informed Rome that the intensive treatment would leave him sterile and unable to have children, he and Rachel made the decision to try and conceive while they had the chance. And so the story goes – thanks to the swooning sounds of Barry White, a splash of red wine and a whole lot of love, Rachel swiftly fell pregnant. On April 20, 2010, a healthy baby boy was born. They named him Ryder Shane Mario Torti and Team RRR was complete.
The following month Rome was appointed team manager for the Australian Element squad working alongside Troy Archer. Rome ran events, photographed the riders and attended to their product needs. It was around this time that he shifted his scope from predominately shooting skateboarding to also apply his profession to the product and fashion photography field. Rachel owned a vintage-clothing company at the time, so Rome set up a studio in their home and would regularly shoot "sprouters" for the online store – tough gig. Soon enough, he was shooting the product and fashion photography for SurfStitch, which was a great gig. Rome was stoked to bring home the bacon at a time when he and Rachel had drained their finances dry on his treatment.
Overlooking the cliff of Greenmount hill and the curling waves of the ocean break below, on September 10, 2011, Rome and Rachel solidified their love and were married. It was a perfect day for the perfect match.
Anyone who knew Rome would know how unique and unorthodox his sense of humour was. He thrived on dad jokes, he would sign off emails or text messages with, “anyway, you’re cute”, or “sounds sexy”. His comical captions flowed throughout his blog on the Slam website, and in May 2013 he launched his own site called Nothing Else Mattress. Obviously a play on words from the Metallica song “Nothing Else Matters”, it was inspired by his love for documenting abandoned street mattresses. In his own words he said the site was, “A way for me to be creative, shoot, write a bit and have a bit of fun in a time where it’s been quite hard for me to get around and do what I used to be able to do, due to my head issues”.
Soiled street mattresses weren’t his only idiosyncratic interest to shoot outside of skateboarding. He loved the stupidest skatepark graffiti and he had a penchant to photograph all the absurd and crude graff that adorns the concrete curves and surrounds of our skateparks. I was recently reminiscing going through his blog and found one inscribed “Trent Loves Dick” in texta. He found that one especially amusing.
Then there were the sunsets. I think it was the romantic in Romeo that imbued him with the desire to capture every burning magenta sky that he saw as the sun laid itself to rest.
Many years of having Rome ride shotgun in my car has left me with a series of great memories of him telling stories, cracking jokes or bagging out the three clowns in the backseat. He’d chauffeur skaters around from spot-tospot daily until the occasions where I would come out with them of a weekend. I always gave him the gun because of the tireless amount of time he spent driving around everyone else. He appreciated that.
A couple of years ago I remember running into Rome, Rachel and Ryder one morning at a friend’s garage sale. Ryder was in their car, so I was messing around popping my head above the windows to give him a little scare. Little Ryder was in hysterics and loving it. That was until I gave him a little too much of a fright and seemed to spook him. Later that day I picked Rome up to go for a roll and I sincerely apologised for startling Ryder earlier. Rome was quick to retort, “Yeah, you really scared the ‘shit’ out of him… No, literally ... you scared the shit out of him. He pooed his pants!” I felt so bad, but Rome was too busy basking in the glory of his pun.
In Slam issue 200, Rome’s brother-in-law, Jake Frost, wrote about Rome’s miracle recovery after the world-renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Charlie Teo operated and removed the growth that had returned with a vengeance. He battled through partial paralysis to regain his strength and mobility ready to rise to his next challenge. The next mission was for Rachel and Rome to travel to Germany to try some new groundbreaking treatment that has been widely successful. Just weeks before the couple were booked to fly to Frankfurt, Rome was struck with severe pain to his spine. On May 28, 2014, I received a chilling message from Rachel, “This absolutely rips my heart out to type. The tumour has metastasised into the derma layer of the spine”.
Rome, 2013. Photo: Nick Lawrence.
After a five-year war, the fearless fighter threw up a white flag to retreat in peace and spend the time he had left with his wife, son, mother, father, five brothers, two sisters, mother-inlaw, other relatives and his close friends. Right until the very end, he did his best to shake a hand, throw a thumbs up or smirk a smile. The silent soldier still gave life every ounce of energy that he had. Rome’s strength and sheer determination to give everything his best saw him accomplish more in his final five years while battling cancer than most people could in a lifetime. His homie Luke put it best: “It was so rad to never see this guy falter or get disillusioned with the trials and tribulations that come with chasing your vision. Nothing was out of reach or impossible for him and he wasn’t afraid to work for anything he wanted.”
When Rome relinquished himself to the disease he stressed that there was one more project that he wanted to create before checking out. Over the last couple of months of his life, he was preparing to publish a high-quality hardcover book of his photographs. Aptly titled Hello Friend (Rome called everyone “friend”). The coffee-table book showcases a gallery of Rome’s favourite and finest images, spanning over his career capturing skateboarding and the faces and facets that surrounded his world. Unfortunately Hello Friend didn’t come to fruition while Rome was still with us, however, he knew that sponsors had backed the book, which is now in production, thanks to Jake Frost’s help to make Rome’s dream become a reality. Jake sat by Rome’s bedside sifting through thousands of photos to finalise an astonishing array of images.
We said our final farewell to Rome John Mario Torti on August 28, 2014. The rain fell on the morning of the service, just as it did six days before on the day he went away. After an emotive, and beautiful service, the 800 people paying their respects sauntered outside to find the skies had cleared. A Guard of Honour was formed of skateboards held high. Rome was laid to rest.
Rome has not only left a legacy through his stunning skateboarding photography, but his spirit will carry on through anyone he ever met, inspired and inadvertently influenced. With every street mattress spotted, comical skate graff scribbled, setting sun waiting to be snapped, or each glimpse of the sparkling glint in Ryder’s eye, we will remember Rome. Always and forever.
Shane Cross, tucks up to fakie, Slam issue 99, 2004.
Words by Dave Torti
Even though Rome was my younger brother he definitely led me astray. He was the one who came up with the crazy ideas and I was the one who followed him wholeheartedly. When we were younger I always felt like we were best mates. It didn’t matter what we did, we just had to do it together. Whether it be pushing shopping trolleys down stairs, stealing some of Dad’s scotch or buying cigarettes when we were in our teens. When we were young I wasn’t really into music, but I remember when Rome played me “Regulate” by Warren G. The first time I heard it he was getting me to rap one part and he was rapping the next verse. I failed so bad. I ended up putting my hand in the fan because I got so excited. We once went to our granddad’s house, Nonno, when I was 10 and Rome was eight and found all these collectible beers. We used to sneak them to the vacant block next-door and we’d shake them up and throw them and try to make them explode. I swear we would have got our arses kicked if anyone saw us. I’ll best remember Rome as sort of like The Fonz. He was the coolest cat and was always smiling – everything just seemed to work for him. All the girls wanted him and all the guys wanted to be him. He was always chilled, always happy and always ready to go for a skate, take photos or drive anywhere.
Tim Burdett, tree-ride, Rome’s first Slam cover, issue 122, 2006.
Rome was a guy who didn’t conform. He didn’t go get the usual nine-to-five job. He didn’t become a number in society. He wanted to become a photographer and he just loved skateboarding. He followed his dream right to the very end and you couldn’t tell him anything different. He was like the definition of skateboarding – like he was the essence of it – pure and innocent. He didn’t chase the money. He didn’t chase the fame. He just loved skateboarding for all of its ups and downs. For all of its negative press, he tried to show the world how positive it is. Anyone who met Rome instantly felt like he was their brother or sister. He made everyone feel like family. He had a massive heart and would do anything he could to help anyone fulfil their dreams. I think the best thing we can take from Rome is to love life, love your friends and family, and do something you love.
Joe Pease, noseslide, Slam issue 96, 2004.
Words by Martin Berg
My mate, Romus. I first met Rome in grade two at Mudgeeraba Primary, where we both discovered our love for basketball. Being a natural elite athlete, Rome was awesome at basketball and played all the rep and State-level comps through school as a power forward. Loving his hook shot like his favourite player, Karl Malone. His passion for basketball was like no-one else and also where his collecting began. From every issue of One on One basketball magazine, to every basketball card series and every video that was available.
When he liked something he took it on and embraced it completely. From his early years and throughout his life Rome would always focus on what he truly loved. Whether it was his sports, music, work, family or mates, he was there – ready and willing to give his all.
At high school he was a basketball star. He grew tall quickly with muscles and flourishing facial hair – he was a grown man by Year 10 – which made him very popular with the girls and earnt him the title of “Hottest guy at Nerang High”. He was friends with everyone at school and never wanted to be in a group. He was his own man – the raddest individual with his own ideas and style – hanging out with all the different groups and never hating on others’ interests or styles.
His love for hip-hop music was strong. I will never forget the car trips to school: Rome’s mum, Jill, would pick me up every morning with Rome so eager to play his latest gangsta album. We would rap to Biggie and Eazy-E with Rome changing the lyrics to suit what was going on in his life. It was so funny and such a great start to the day.
Playing basketball started to fade when he discovered his new love of skateboarding. He used to skate his old Cab that he had from when he was a kid and would learn old-school tricks, like no complies and slappies. Meanwhile everyone else was trying to be cool by doing kickflips. Rome started with the roots of skateboarding.
Jon Lorcan, pole jam to fakie, Slam Photo Annual, 2008.
He loved the history of the old-school. Once again, he collected like crazy – every issue of every magazine and every skate video that came out. This incessant collecting grew to be the best collection of skate media I’ve ever seen. His love for skateboarding and photos of skateboarding eventually led him to his dream of being a professional skateboard photographer.
I have always been a proud friend. Watching him achieve his dreams and goals by focusing on doing what he loved to do, which was inspiring to me and everyone around him. Rome was the most humble fella and always respectful to others. He was a true friend to everyone in his life – unconsciously and unselfishly. His happy and honest attitude to everything and everyone is something I will forever admire. Thanks to all his friends and the whole skate industry for your love and support of Rome over his last years. I feel blessed that he was part of my life and a true friend to me. Rome, I miss you so much and will never forget you, mate. Your buddy, Spermy.
Jesse Noonan, backside kickflip, Slam issue 186, 2012.
Words by Luke Attril
I met Rome on the basketball courts of Carrara stadium in 1993. He was as good as an 11-yearold player could be. He owned the court and didn’t take any shit. If someone roughed him up, he’d rough ’em up back, smile when they’d retaliate, and score a bunch of points to remind them why they were there in the first place. I guess it’s kind of a perfect analogy for how Rome chose to operate in his lifetime. He didn’t waste his energy. He never gave into negativity. He did what he wanted to do in every moment, with complete absolution, for the best of himself and everyone around him. They are completely impossible ideals on the surface, but he carried out this philosophy with undeniable charm and grace right up until his last days.
Rome was more than a person, he was a privilege. I’m not the only one who can say that through his companionship I achieved things I wouldn’t have as one person. Rome had no concept of failure, regret or remorse. He did everything he meant without a contrived sense of meaning.
Jake Duncombe, frontside 50-50, cover of Slam issue 133, 2007.
I represented Gold Coast Basketball with him in ’94. Sat at the top of the 11-foot vert ramp at Skate World in ’97 as he built up the courage to drop in, camera in hand. Drank my weight in Tooheys New with him at Schoolies ’99, when girls flanked him left and right, but all he wanted to do was hang out with his mates and crank some Biggie and Wu-Tang. Celebrated with more beer when he got his first photo published in this magazine, and still more beer when overseas mags started running his stuff. Helped materialise his dream to produce his own skate magazine and skate team. Stood beside him as he married the love of his life and then started a badass little gangsta family. Sat by him in his final days as he raised his fist to everyone that came through the door and gave his love with every ounce of strength he had.
From start to finish he was eternally Rome, magnetic as hell and genuine to the core. We had some killer times, mate. Who says we can’t have more? Love you, brother.
Nick Wilson, frontside feeble grind, Slam Photo Annual, 2008.
Words by Cameron Sparkes
For me to sum up Rome Torti’s amazing spirit and character is almost a physical impossibility. The man was just too damn good. No words that I could conjure up could ever do Rome the full justice that he so sorely deserves. But, I think the man who originally introduced us, our other dearly departed friend, Shane Cross, said it best just prior to our initial introduction.
With Shane manning the wheel of the “Cross family thruster” bound for Varsity Lakes, and me flipping through a recent issue of Australian Skateboarding Magazine, I came across an early Rome Torti special. A wonderful photo of a young Sammy Winter frontside flipping a gap located within our next destination.
After having seen a few of Rome’s photos surfacing in magazines I was becoming a fan, and knowing we were on our way to meet Rome I asked Shane, “What’s this Rome dude like?” Shane turned to me with that classic smile and with an almost boasting tone replied, “Oh, man… You’ll love Rome. He is seriously the best person ever!” – And my lord, I don’t think Shane’s description could have been any more accurate.
I don’t want to get too “Sydney” on everyone, but it was definitely love at first sight. As soon as I met Rome I was instantly won over by the warm and friendly Torti temperament, which he has since become so famous for. I’ll never forget heading back to Rome’s place later that day and having my leg repeatedly humped by Caesar, his dog, and being absolutely blown away by Rome’s legendary skateboarding video and magazine collection. I couldn’t believe my eyes. He seriously had everything. I was mortified, yet thoroughly impressed, that someone had out “skateboard nerded” me in the media department. I was so captivated by Rome’s collection that I had completely neglected the fact that Caesar had an extremely firm grip on me and was going about his business like there was no tomorrow.
After leaving Rome’s extremely well-airconditioned abode we headed out for a solid day of skateboarding all over the Gold Coast. Being from Sydney, and not knowing much past Cavill Avenue, Rome took it upon himself to give me the full royal tour of his beloved GC. He told me which restaurants were secretly owned by this alleged “GC mafia”, and that any form of water was absolutely infested with bull sharks – puddles on the sidewalk and back-yard swimming pools included. When we eventually parted ways and I had to go home, we agreed that we would have a trial “longdistance relationship” and see how it went. Well what do you know, a few weeks later Rome came down to visit Sydney and I was just as ecstatic as Shane when introducing people to my beloved friend Rome Torti from the Gold Coast. I still remember when I decided to temporarily relocate to the Gold Coast for a while. I announced the news to Rome via text and got a reply, “That’s awesome, the bull sharks are all really excited!”, followed by, “Are you sure they make sunscreen strong enough for you up here?”, and finally, “Nar, that’s rad … now we can play skateboards all the time”.
Rome had such a profound ability to be able to make friends with everyone no matter where he was. People were just drawn to him. Whether it was his beautiful smile, continuously positive disposition or his hilarious facial-hair artwork that he sported for a while. You couldn’t leave Rome alone without returning to find him surrounded by at least five new friends while dropping the occasional dad joke whenever he got the chance. He truly had a gift with people. A few weeks ago when I was visiting Rome in hospital I was handed a letter that was written by one of the doctors that was looking after him.
John Dickenson, frontside noseblunt slide, Slam Photo Annual, 2010.
Dear Rome, I wanted to write you a wee note as I am off this rotation for a bit, and really because I’m a bit of a kook in real life – much more eloquent on paper. I just wanted to express to you that you’re a pretty rad guy. In my short time as a doctor I’ve encountered many patients, and every now and then you come across the odd one you can’t help but adore. Old, young, sick, well – all different, but all possessing some kind of inherent charm. And that’s you. I knew I liked your sweet T-shirt and good-going beard when you first arrived in hospital, but I was blown away by what a lovely person you were as well. You were sweating away like you were in a sauna because you had a roaring temperature, and I’m prodding around trying to get a blood sample. I felt so mean. Even though you were in agonising pain, were totally exhausted and must have felt so horrible, you used that little energy you had to say, in your endearingly broken way, “Don’t worry. I don’t mind because I know you’re trying to help. You guys are all amazing”. It’s only a special person who is kind like that. And I just thought, man, this guy is a beautiful soul. Although I would never wish upon anyone the suffering you’ve gone through, I do hope that one day someone might look at me with the love Rachel has in her eyes when she looks at you. Or my friends might totally flood the hospital hallways like yours do. You’re clearly one badass gangsta and everyone knows it. Thanks for being an inspiring patient. Wishing you the very best. Hannah.
I think that letter is a perfect example of the special connection that Rome made with every single person he ever had contact with. You couldn’t help but fall in love with him.
There are no words that could ever pay tribute to the courageous battle Rome has fought over the past five years. The word inspirational doesn’t even come close, and to say that he fought hard would be the understatement of the century.
To his beautiful wife, Rachel, who I feel is the reason Rome was able to fight this thing for so long. Nothing we do or say could ever thank Rachel enough for what she has done for our magnificent friend over the past few years. Rachel, you are my hero, and a hero to the entire Australian skateboarding community. Rome loved you and beautiful Ryder more than life itself. The strength you all demonstrated as a gorgeous family through this whole ordeal is absolutely mind-blowing. You are some of the most remarkable people on this planet. Rachel, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for everything you have done for my friend.
To Jill and Peter, thank you for bringing such a beautiful soul into this world. I can’t even begin to tell you how much Rome meant to all of us and how shattered our entire community is due to his passing. Through your love, and obviously great parenting, you honestly raised a saint – someone that we all looked up to, aspired to be like, and was loved like no other.
To my beloved friend, Rome, you were the greatest mate anyone could ask for. I truly aspire to become half the man you were, my friend. You taught me so much and will always be my muse when trying to become a better person. I will miss you more than anything, but understand that you had to go. I will do everything in my power to watch over Ryder and fulfil my duties as his godfather. When you awarded me that role, it was the most honourable moment of my life. I will not let Ryder and Rach down. I promise. Save me a seat at Thug Mansion and say “what up” to Shane and Lewis for us. I love you, my brother. I’ll never forget you.
Jimmy Roche, frontside feeble grind, Slam issue 130, 2007.
Words by Peter Torti
Your name is your greatest legacy, so thank you for being who you were. We are so proud that you were our son. Thank you for teaching all of us the huge importance of following your dreams. I believe that you had much more to offer the world, but circumstances didn’t allow it. You didn’t have enough time to see your vision through and your dreams to fruition. You parted this world with the honour that you deserve, leaving us with the legacy of the exemplary man, the bravest man, and a model of loyalty and integrity, the perfect son, the loving husband, the exceptional father, the greatest brother, the adored uncle, the cool cousin, the respected nephew, the special grandson, the comedian son-in-law, the reliable brother-in-law, and the best mate and friend to so many, which made you loved by all. Farewell, my dear son. Go in peace. You remain in our hearts forever.
Pat Dandy, frontside five-o, cover of Slam issue 192, 2013.
Words by Jill Torti
We expected the handsome child we brought into the world 32 years ago would marry, have children, grandchildren, and live a long, happy life. We never realised that someone so special was only given to us on loan. I hear his laugh everywhere, and see his beautiful smile – his sky-blue eyes, crinkly at the corners. I feel the warmth of his hugs and kisses on my hair. Nothing can take that from me, his dad, brothers, sisters, wife and Ryder, his little boy. I will always feel his presence. My pride in him is forever. I carried him inside my body beneath my heart. Now he has settled into my heart forever. We will meet again in the afterlife.
Rachel and Rome, 2011. Photo: Andrew Otten.
Words by Rachel Torti
I had just flown back from a work trip to China, walked into my room and noticed my bed looking a little out of line, like someone had slept in it. “Did someone sleep in my bed?”, I said to one of my flatmates. They cried out, “Yes! Skateboarders slept in your bed! Ruthy let skateboarders sleep in your bed!” Having worked as a rep at Hardcore and been friends with skateboarders for quite some time I wasn’t upset, just more annoyed that apparently, I had missed a good party thrown in my own home.
A month or so later we were sitting at our dining table. It was a school night, and I received a text about a free booze event in Coolangatta. That was all the information I needed and I convinced one of my flatmates to drive us down.
Once inside I ran into a good friend, Kendra. She was talking to a handsome young man, and she asked him if we had ever met, “Rachel, this is Rome, Rome, Rachel”. I said, “I think you are friends with my flatmate, and I think you may have even slept in my bed recently”. Rome replied, “Yes, I did, and I also rifled through your underwear drawer”. Then he just walked off leaving Kendra and I wide-eyed.
When we were leaving later that night, Ruthy asked him if he wanted to come back to our place and party. He more than likely had no other options. Taxis are scarce in Cooly, so in he jumped. To keep my dignity somewhat intact – I am a mother now you know – what happened next was completely aboveboard. Clearly, we only held hands and discussed intellectual topics.
After 10 years of working and living in the same town and industry, with an intertwined group of friends, Rome and I finally met and we became inseparable. We fell in love. It was a whirlwind love – an unexpected and magical romance that we both went into with our hearts wide open.
It was unexpected, it was exciting and, I believe, it was fate. I won’t lie – the past few years were tough. But among those rough times were the moments that shine so much brighter. Our favourite times were those when we were just relaxing and laughing – quite possibly enjoying a few light refreshments – and just letting go of all our stresses and worries. Just being silly and fun. Just being in love.
It was an absolute honour to be by Rome’s side for the past five-and-half years. It hasn’t been what you would call a perfect love story, but it was our love story, and I wouldn’t change a single thing. I would do it all again in a heartbeat.
I am a better person for having met and loved Rome. He taught me so much about life without even saying a word. His smile lit up my world and all of those around him.
Rome, you are the love of my life. You have taught me so very much about myself and the world and made me a stronger, better person. Throughout this journey, I have seen the way you have inspired others, and frankly, while I am in awe of you, I am not surprised. Because you are magnificent. You are a radiant man who lit up my world and everyone who came into your orbit. I am so very proud of you.
We created such an amazing human together, and Ryder and I will live our lives to the fullest as you would want us to, with your love and memories close in our hearts.
Rome, I promised you I would stand by you and cherish you forever, and I will, in my heart, in my soul, in my everything.
For now, it’s goodbye. Forever, it’s I love you.