Philadelphia ‘Fixture’ Bob Rovner Dies at 77

Bob Rovner, third from left, with his family. (The Rovner family)

Bob Rovner spent every summer of his life down the shore, according to his son, Dan Rovner.

As a kid, he went with his parents on trips to Atlantic City, their childhood home. Then, as an adult, he took his own family to their vacation house in Margate.

Rovner loved the shore because he loved riding his bike around the Atlantic City Boardwalk, to smile and wave at people, and to strike up conversation after conversation. Dan Rovner said his father never actually made it to the beach.

“He was this incredibly energetic person who loved people,” Dan Rovner added.

On Sept. 8 in Philadelphia, Rovner died after spending his last couple weeks at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He was dealing with complications from myelodysplastic syndrome, a blood disorder in which cells do not fully form.

The Philadelphia lifer left behind his two sons, Dan, 51, and Steven, 53, as well as four grandchildren. Rovner was divorced.

He also left behind a successful Feasterville law firm, Rovner, Allen, Rovner, Zimmerman, Sigman & Schmidt, where Steven Rovner still works. The firm specializes in personal injury lawsuits.

Outside of family and work, Rovner was just as energetic in the community as he was on the boardwalk.

He became the first person in his family to attend college and graduated from Temple University as class president. While serving as a state senator from 1970-74, Rovner sponsored the Lottery Bill, which earmarked profits from the Pennsylvania Lottery to benefit senior citizens.

As an adult, Rovner served as a trustee for Temple, the Pennsylvania College of Podiatric Medicine and the Zionist Organization of America. And as a Jewish man who lived in the post-World War II era, he valued Israel, raising “a significant amount of money” through Israel Bonds, according to Dan Rovner.

“There’s only one Bob Rovner,” Steven Rovner said. “He’s going to be missed.”

Born Sept. 28, 1943 to Edward and Bessie Rovner, Bob Rovner spent his childhood in Northeast Philadelphia, graduating from Northeast High School.

His father rose from a first job as a dishwasher to become a labor leader with the Hotel, Restaurant & Bartenders Union. And Rovner showed a similar work ethic in his young life, working as a waiter, to put himself through Temple University James E. Beasley School of Law and founding his own firm.

Bob’s realization of his American dream meant that, while he may have been the first person in his family to go to college, he was far from the last, and his sons both became Philadelphia-area attorneys, like their dad.

Steven Rovner started as an entertainment lawyer in Los Angeles, but returned to the area to be closer to family. When he came back, he kept his promise to work for the firm his father founded if he ever lived here again.

Dan Rovner wanted to forge his own path, calling his father “a powerful force.” So he ended up at Ross Feller Casey, a personal injury firm in Center City.

Bob Rovner with sons Dan, left, and Steven, right. (The Rovner family)

“Everything he had he worked hard for, and he instilled that in us,” Dan Rovner said.

But it wasn’t just their patriarch’s example that the Rovner boys followed. It was also his word.

Rovner called his sons and grandsons every day. Dan Rovner said that’s what he’ll miss most about his dad. Steven Rovner said his father made genuine and personal connections with his three grandsons.

“They all had different relationships with him,” Steven Rovner said.

Rovner didn’t get to have those conversations with his only granddaughter, who is only one-and-a-half. But in the past 18 months, Dan Rovner made sure to take pictures of grandpa and granddaughter together.

“I’m so appreciative he was around when she was born, and got to know her for 18 months,” Dan said.

Like most people, Rovner slowed down when the pandemic hit. He was still working and calling his family, but he wasn’t going out and doing as much.

Still, there was one activity he kept up: biking around the boardwalk while smiling and waving at people. And talking to them, too.

“If he ever wasn’t on the boardwalk, people would get concerned,” Dan Rovner concluded. “He was a fixture.”

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