We welcome your thoughts, appreciations, and memories of Ross. If you have photos or stories of Ross you'd like to share, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for inclusion on this website.
With the recent passing of my mom, at the age of 99 & 11 months, I began reflecting on her life and the friendships she enjoyed. One she truly appreciated was Mr & Mrs Socolof.
Though I was a little boy, I have memories as well. For one, their 'pet skunk'.
The Socolofs kept a pet skunk in their home, which was really intriguing to this little boy. De-fumed, but still with a wee bit of an odor, he was otherwise quite happy living inside the Socolof household.
As was the practice back then, when people hosted a party women especially would bring coats or shawls. Entering the party it was common to place their coats on the bed in the bedroom of the party giver. However, the main bedroom was where the Socolofs attempted to keep their skunk from invading the party. As soon as someone opened the bedroom door to place their article of clothing on the bed, out would run the skunk - right through the middle of all the guests. This caused everyone to scream and jump about - seeing a skunk run past their legs.
Another pet the Socolofs had was a miniature dachshund. During one of their trips I was asked to look after their pet. I was quite young. I remember with such fondness how that tiny little dog loved to sleep each night buried under the covers of my bed way down deep next to my feet. It would awaken in the morning with me and wiggle its way up to my head, where it would then jump down - a mighty leap for this little dog - to the floor, ready for a walk and some breakfast. I wasn't allowed to have a pet when I was a child because my mother loved to travel (a lot) as well. Having that sweet little dachshund sleep with me, even for only about a week, left a warm fond childhood memory. I didn't want to give it back!
My mother was kind of a 'pool shark'. At one of the Socolofs' parties my mother was playing pool. A man she'd never seen there before was impressed, and followed her out to her car. And then into our lives by becoming my stepfather. The Socolofs gave me a new dad.
My last memory of the Socolof family was seeing their daughter sing in a cool club in the lower side of NYC one evening. It was my mom who telephoned me, saying the daughter of the Socolofs would be performing in Manhattan that night. (I had moved to New York to work for Skidmore Owings & Merrill.) Jodi sang wonderful. It is a nice final farewell memory for me for a family I can recall being a big part of my mother's life.
I wish Ross, who I do remember, and all of the Socolof family the warmest fondest regards.
— Hans Carl Clausen
Congratulations to Laif DeMason and Stuart Grant, recipients of the 2010 Ross Socolof Award!
— Jodi Socolof
For those who were acquainted with Ross personally or familiar with his contributions to this great hobby, you'll know this is a tremendous loss to our fish culture as we know it. I am happy to say that Ross took the time to correspond with me many, many years ago. Back before the age of internet (no, that's after the dinosaurs fell), we wrote letters (not email) and spoke on the phone (no cell phones yet, so there WAS life before texting). Get this — I contacted Ross when I was finishing up my graduate work and looking for a job, possibly of academic nature, in the tropical fish industry. He and I spoke and wrote of some possibilities and shared ideas. He gave me some names of people to contact. That led to the first acquaintance with my now close friend, Wayne Liebel. Sorry for the digressions! It's Cichlid Hobby History 101 over the net.
— Jeff Rapps via MonsterFishkeepers.com
The cichlid community owes a great deal of respect to Ross Socolof and Rusty Wessel both!
— Rick Thibert via Practical Fishkeeping
I've been thinking of you often and hope you have found peace in the memories of your amazing dad. I remember him as a young man on Long Island with flaming red hair and a great wit. He certainly invented himself and created a person of true imagination.
— Claudia Rose
Ross will be greatly missed, but live on in the hearts of the ACA and the aquarium world where he has left the unparalled gift of his legacy.
— Claudia via cichlid.org
Certain people in this world touch others in a profound way and leave a lasting memory. Ross was one of those people.
— MrFiremouth via cichlid.org
The old guard is gradually dwindling. Ross was an outstanding individual.
— Larry Brown via cichlid.org
We were very saddened on hearing of the passing of Ross. We are happy and honored to have been able to know him and be included among his friends. Aside, and beyond, all of the "fishy stuff" Ross was very simply a wonderful man. Many of our best memories of him, and of Loise, have nothing to do with fish, books, natural history, or the sort. We used to have four-way, back-and-forth phone conversations and though there were some specific "topic areas", it was mostly free-flow talk that took us to many enjoyable places. The pleasant memories of this will always be with us.
— Lee and Aline Finley
I never met Ross, but have heard so many great things about him from Rusty. Ross meant so many things to so many people. His contributions to the hobby will never be forgotten. My thoughts are with his family and friends. Be strong!
— Rick Thibert
President of East Anglia Cichlid Group
I am happy to have known Ross and been lucky to have gone on a few trips with him. I remember a great trip in the late 80s to Mexico and, by accident, part of Guatamala. Ross, Harry, Jim, Jurgen, and I collected some thought-to-be-extinct livebearers, as well as some nice cichlids. That was the first time I met Ross. I already knew of Ross thru my cichlid hobby. I was able to visit Ross a few other times after that trip to talk fish and reptiles. He was a teacher. He will be missed.
— Jeff Gee
I received word today that Ross Socolof passed away this morning. For those who don't know he was a MAJOR player in the tropical fish hobby, especially during the fifties and sixties. Everyone I know who met Ross said he was just a great guy to be around. I didn't post it, but Dominic Isla also passed away a couple of weeks ago. He is not as well-known, but he was responsible for bringing numerous species of livebearer into the hobby, including those tiger Limia several people were keeping. I knew him and he was a very nice guy.
Ross was one of the first big-time fish farmers. Some of the old TFH books have pictures of his Gulf Fish Hatchery in them. In my early days as a retailer, back in the late '70s and early '80s, I used to buy fish from him at his Four-Star Fish Farms. Sometimes, Ross would get on the phone and take the orders himself. Those calls were special fun because he always had interesting stories to tell about the industry and key figures in it.
Several fish were named after Ross, of which Pseudotropheus socolofi is probably most well-known.
A couple of years back, I corresponded with Ross via e-mail and arranged to send off my copy of his book for autographing. If you can find a copy of Confessions of a Tropical Fish Addict, it's a fun read for those interested in the history of the industry and key people in it. Ray "Kingfish" Lucas was saying at the recent MCA Expo that he and Lee Finley had gotten rights to reprint Ross' book after his death. So maybe it will soon become available again.
Rest in peace, Ross!
— Mike Wickham
Circa 1973: I am a proud first-year employee of Ross Socolof Inc. Fish Farms. Being a danio breeder (don't ask) I was most usually in the summer months working inside the hot/humid vat rooms, pampering the danios (and others) within the interim periods of their bi-monthly breeding sessions. They need to be hot and humid to breed. Most of us can identify. Alas, it is February, a bit chilly and down time for the horny little buggers, so I was reassigned to help watch the ponds.
'Twas doing so (though green at it, I was confident I could feel it out), and was poking around knee high in the closest mini-pond to the breeding room (God help me, I couldn't get too far away — I was hooked) and THEN out of the breeding room door comes Ross the Boss (dontcha love how that rhymes?).
I liked my boss a lot. He liked me too (at least he acted like he did — good enough for me). He asked me how I was doing in the slight alteration, odd duties, etc. — he was sincere — and then he looked down in the water on the bank of the mini-pond and said:
"OOOOooohhhh!!! CRAWDAD!" He had spotted one.
In a flash, like Aquaman or somebody, he was ankle-deep in the (kinda chilly) mini-pond water, bent quickly, and the crawdad was in his hand.
I can still see it wriggling as he held it triumphantly in the air, and can hear him saying (if paraphrased — sorry): "These are best eaten raw, and the head is the best part. Then you suck the tail."
In yet another flash, he bit the head off the wriggling creature, then bit off the tail, and chewed with a chuckle and a big smile on his face. Twenty-year-old appreciator of mentors that I was, I stood there in me rubber boots in knee-deep water and said something profound, like "Cool!" Ross agreed that it was a special moment, with more chuckling.
I will always remember what he did and said a few moments later. He tossed the tattered and torn remains of the "crawdad du jour" into the mini-pond, then said:
"Gross. I've never done that before." He then turned and walked back into the compound.
I loved that incident. You rock, Ross Socolof.
— Scott Huffman
Not sure if you have heard, but Ross Socolof passed away today, just a few hours ago. I spoke with his daughter yesterday and she said he likely would not make it another day and she was right. I feel like I have lost my best friend even though I haven't spent much time with him in these past few years. It really tears me up now that it has finally happened.
— Rusty Wessel
My name is Dot and myself and my two sisters all worked at Socolof Farms. My two sisters, Linda and Allene, also worked at Four Star. We now all work at Segrest Farms. I'm glad Ross is with Irving. We all loved that dog also.
— Doris Brady
I am so sorry to hear about your dad. The great pride and love that he felt for you was evident and I know that you held the same for him. I can't help but think of my own dad at 85 with a stroke and the time that his day, too, will come. I have been walking your road, and feel for your every moment.
We will all celebrate your father's life and find great joy in the knowledge that he will always be with us in spirit, and for the many treasures that he has left with us. May you find a peace in the cherished memories and may the love that you shared for one another bring a smile to your face. No one can ever take that away! (*!*) Please know that there is a world of people that are here for you!
We had the cichlid connection but also the book connection. He would send me books from time to time — not just fish books — that he thought I should read. The most notable was The Adventures of Baron Von Munchausen about a compulsive liar like the Man of La Manchu who has incredible, but embellished adventures. What your dad didn't know was this was one of my favorite movies of the time. It, like the others, would simply turn up on my stoop one day. And some of the others — rare collectible fish books? As then a student with hardly any money he was happy to put them "on account" for me and let me pay him when I could (eventually I did, but I realize that wasn't the point). Anyway, as I said, I came to think of him as my kindly Uncle Ross. And that's how I will remember him — not just as the great fish man that he was, but as Uncle Ross.
— Wayne Leibel
I'm sorry to hear about Ross's departure, but I can assure you that, as a Catholic, I truly believe Ross is now enjoying plenitude, sitting by the Lord's side. He earned it. His legacy will live with me and my family in Colombia for always. I hope to keep in touch with all of you. Attached are some pictures of my family and Ross (back in 2004), in case you want to post them somewhere. Jodi, I should be in NY next month. I hope we can get together to talk about this great man, great human being that taught me so much. I will let you know about my agenda. A big hug to all of you.
— Camilo Gonzalez
It is sad and a great loss. Few will ever do for the hobby what Ross did. I am sure he is in a better place.
— Chuck D.
I never knew your father, but I know he meant a lot to my father. I am sorry to hear of his passing. My father left pages of his life journal that will probably take me the rest of my life to go through. But I will keep me eyes open for any stories about Al and Ross. I know how hard it is to say goodbye to your father and I am always reminded of the opening of the Jewish Mourner's Kaddish, "Magnify and sanctify..." It is up to us to magnify and sanctify the spirit of those we love who are gone. My sincere condolences to you and the rest of your family.
— Marc Levin
I heard about your father's passing on the aquarium hobby history list on Tuesday afternoon from both Rusty and Wayne Leibel. My heart goes out to you all at this time. I spent the evening last night reading your dad's book again. He was a special man in my life and close to my heart. Miles away, he was always in my prayers and thoughts, and there was and will be always a picture of Ross in my programs at aquarium society events. When things get settled please I would like to talk to you about a few things in his memory. Tears are a language only God understands (water changes for the body).
—Ray Kingfish Lucas
Going to respect his wishes that there be no memorial. Bill is a hero. Thank you and he for scattering the ashes. Ross was a great man and he did teach me a few life lessons. Some are:
- Do not retire early, especially your mind;
- Do not try to cheat over money and especially your family, and when cheated get even [bird story];
- Life goes on; and,
- Do not love anyone too much
— Mark Oppenheimer
I remember visiting Jacques Gery in Dordogne, France, with Dad and Mom. At the time, Jacques was living in an old castle, with live escargot in the grass. Beautifully picturesque. They actually had two(!) castles at once, as the other one hadn't been sold yet. Mrs. Gery was a glamorous blonde, who had a black belt in karate or judo. They had a little boy, Gregory, I think, who was about 3, and chattered a lot. My dad turned to me once, and said "Smart kid — speaks French!"
He was the smartest, coolest, most couth person who ever lived. He could eat the head off a live crawfish, but still was the most couth person who ever lived. He taught me right and wrong, real fast, as a child. He taught me the genus and species of every seashell, pointed out trails of different animals, everywhere. We went fossil hunting, constantly. He said he took me because, as a kid, I was "lower to the ground." His fossil collection was staggering, and was donated to the South Florida Museum.
I was so sorry to hear of the passing of Mr. Ross Socolof. I will always remember Ross with sincere kindness, since he was the gentleman who introduced me to the tropical fish industry when he had his fish farm on Moccasin Wallow Road. He also introduced me to Mr. Harry Rambarran from the South American country of Guyana, who is, like Ross, well known throughout the world as a leader in the tropical fish industry. My thoughts and my prayers are with Ross's family and friends.
—William S. Moore
Here is a quick story about your dad. In 1989 I was on my first collecting trip with Ross. He broke his arm climbing over rocks, fording low areas of the river, while the guides pulled the boat over the same rocks Ross slipped on. Harry Specht, a doctor in real life, set his arm with some sticks and a piece of fabric. Ross refused to turn back, finishing the day out.
That night his arm was still hurting, so I gave Ross a "new" pain reliever that worked perfectly for him. He was so grateful for this simple act he insisted I come see him in Florida in the near future. A year or two later I was able to take him up on his offer. He insisted I stay at his home during my visit. I had a great time visiting a number of fish farms, including what had been Ross' many years ago, and just shooing the bull. During one dinner I was surprised to see Ross bite into a whole jalapeno pepper. I have tons of stories and memories.
I just returned from China a few hours ago and I am totally destroyed, first because I could not think anymore straight. And especially because I thought now his birthday is coming up (while I was fling) and I really should call him. How and when did it happen? And why so suddenly? What did he have? And actually how old was Ross? Not that old.
Naturally, first of all, my very deep and sincere condolence to you, from all my heart. I will write up a large special event memory on his work, his life, and our friendship. Also I will publish it soon to my website (where I will place many photos from the past) and also make it on a single page in the scientific journal aqua, which I publish quarterly (the last issue was just printed on the 15th, but in the next one, which is on the 15th of January, it will be, and if you give me your address I will also send youcopy then). Please also let me know when you have a website up. And I will write in fish forums around the world.
I am so sorry. I really miss not having talked to him in recent times. When I was last wanted to see him, he did not want me to come — so tremendously sorry about that. The world has lost an icon, probably the best-known "fish man" America has ever known. While no one talks about Axelrod anymore, the name Socolof will remain forever in this hobby and in the scientific community around the globe. This is for sure and certain. Again all the very best and I miss you too.
We were friends of Ross from the fish farm days and also we both worked for him during that time. Ross co-signed for our first new car (1972 Datsun SW), and Loise did the paperwork on our home. It was the first thing she did after getting her license. Still in the same house 36 years later!
— Ed & Sue Hartley
I'm particularly saddened by Ross' passing because I was privileged to spend quite a bit of one-on-one time with him doing one of his favorite things, collecting tropical fish. His generosity, compassion, kindness, humility, and hospitality were inspiring. I enjoyed every minute I spent with him and he taught me many things I still practice today. Even though he's passed, his goofy side still brings a smile to my face today. His knowledge and contributions to the hobby are too numerous to mention and we have all benefited from them. I am glad Ross can rest now. Via con Dios Ross, you will be missed.
I remember Grandpa once telling me about one of his greatest fears that he would die without reading all of the books he owned. That might be why a few years ago he sent me several boxes filled with books about adventure, courage and science. He didn't just read about those things, he embodied those qualities and passed them on to me and many, many others. He was one of the most positive influences in my life. He taught me so much: history, science, how to be a good person, how to grow brine shrimp, break clams in the ocean and later use them to make linguine with clam sauce, and he mentored me in photography. I know that I would not be a photojournalist today without his encouragement at a young age. I think about him often and I never turn down a chance to brag on him.
— Richard Griffiths