Jackson Rohm may be best known as the Lakewood boy who began his music career by playing a high school dance and later became an accomplished singer-songwriter. But Rohm also had an affinity for helping others, often using his musical talents to raise money, raise awareness and encourage those facing difficulties.
Many of his efforts, some public like the United Way benefit concerts and others more private, were noted in dozens of personal accounts and tributes posted on social media Wednesday following his sudden passing this week.
He graduated in 1989 from Southwestern High School. During his senior year, he received the Frank Hyde Memorial Scholarship, presented in memory of the late Frank Hyde, sports editor of The Post-Journal from 1945 to 1979. It is awarded annually to an outstanding college athlete.
Tom Priester, a retired physical education teacher and cross country coach at Southwestern Central School, remembered Rohm as a “super nice kid” and an ideal student.
“Regardless of the setting, Jackson always did what he was asked to do.” said the priest. “He was a great friend to everyone, a great teammate, and always encouraged and supported those around him.”
While a successful student athlete, Rohm’s music career actually began at a high school dance where he performed with his band. It wasn’t until his senior year of college at Miami University in Ohio, where he built a following at his weekly acoustic shows. Realizing that his music could be a potential career, he became a full-time musician.
Among her proudest accomplishments was singing the National Anthem at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
In the years following his establishment as a singer-songwriter, which included the release of seven full-length albums, Rohm often returned to Chautauqua County for various fundraising efforts. As a standout record holder at Southwestern Central School, he performed at the high school in 2007, with proceeds from one show going to the district’s Athletic Complex Fund. In 2009, Rohm returned to Southwestern to help the local United Way chapter launch its annual campaign.
He performed at local shows, both large and small, from Thursday at Village Green Park in Mayville to being a guest and judge on the Chautauqua Lake Idol floating stage.
Rohm also touched many lives through personal gestures that were not intended to generate publicity. That was certainly the case in August 2007 when he sang a few songs on his guitar to a woman in his bed at the WCA Hospital in Jamestown.
Dale Pierce went to Falconer Central School and knew Rohm from rival Southwestern. On Wednesday he remembered the talented musician as a “very special person for many of us”.
Pierce, who lives in the Charlotte, North Carolina area, recalled the day Rohm visited her aunt in the hospital. A fan of live performance, his aunt had grown to love Rohm’s music and was invited to a personal show inside her hospital room.
“She came to comfort one of our loved ones in her last days, playing in her room at WCA, with her angelic voice.” Pierce told The Post-Journal. “In the years that followed, I reconnected with Jackson after moving to the Charlotte area. A lot of people from Western New York live here, and Jackson had a huge following in this area.”
Rohm even played at a private event Pierce hosted with her husband in North Carolina.
“Over the years, every time I picked up the phone, if he was available, he was there for the grand openings, the Christmas parties, and most importantly, the charity fundraisers I hosted.” he said. “Her heart was bigger than her incredible voice. I will always cherish our friendship.”
A TRIBUTE TO A CHILDHOOD FRIEND
Rohm was part of a group that helped organize a memorial run for Amy King, the Celoron native who died in the 9/11 attacks in New York City. Rohm first met King when they were attending Celoron Elementary School in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
In 2019, Rohm discussed his friendship with King with Post-Journal sports editor Scott Kindberg.
“Amy was one of those unique girls who was friends with almost everyone, not just within a certain group, like a lot of us.” Rohm told Kindberg via email. “This was true for her through middle school, high school, and beyond. She really was the sweetest girl of hers, and most guys had a crush on her back then, both because of her personality and her pretty face, not to mention her roller skating prowess.”
With shared interests in running, Rohm, Priester, the former Southwestern cross country coach, and Tom Anderson believed it was only natural to hold a 5K run/walk in memory of King. Less than three months after 9/11, the first Amy’s Run was held.
“It was one of those rare days in late November with temperatures in the 72s and people were out in droves running or walking in memory of Amy.” Röhm remembered. “It was moving to see how our community came together in memory of Amy.”
It was at that first race in 2001 that he was invited to sing. “To Amy, with love” a song she had written about King after he passed away. “I struggled to keep my composure” Rohm said in 2019. “I still can’t look into his mother’s or father’s eyes while I’m singing that song.”
Several people who knew Rohm took to social media Wednesday to offer condolences to his family and recount memories.
Bill Ward, president of Chautauqua Rails to Trails and a local musician, offered the following:
“Many years ago, I was playing barn parties for Bob Rohm and the young Jackson was jumping around capturing hearts even as a kid. Flash forward a few years and Jackson was getting his legs under him as an artist and would call me for advice on equipment, sound systems, etc., and then sit through my breaks at Webbs. Watching him evolve into a seasoned and dynamic artist, as well as a talented and generous community leader, friend and family man, was a great joy in my life. Jackson Rohm will be sorely missed, and I am heartbroken for his family, friends and fans.”
Jason Sample, WRFA station manager, stated: “In the summer of 1996 I spent many Monday nights at the Bemus Point Casino…and that was my first initiation with Jackson Rohm, a local singer/guitarist who seemed to be able to play and sing any song with ease. His talent has only continued to grow over the past 25 plus years. It is sad to know that someone who still looked young and healthy passed away suddenly. Condolences to his many friends, family and fans.”
Tricia Conklin, nurse at Southwestern School and attended high school with Jackson: “My fondest memories of Jackson are his love of music and hosting family concerts at local venues for all to enjoy. My kids grew up listening to Jackson CDs and it was extra special when they got to go see him in a ‘concert’ at Lakewood Beach, Celoron Park or Mayville Park. We always looked forward to the 4th of July because we knew we would see it at the Village Casino in Bemus Point.”
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