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Former Maryland Lottery director Buddy Roogow dies

Buddy Roogow, the longtime Maryland Lottery director who left to run the D.C. Lottery in 2009, died April 11 after suffering an aneurysm. He was 65.
Buddy Roogow, the longtime Maryland Lottery director who left to run the D.C. Lottery in 2009, died April 11 after suffering an aneurysm. He was 65. (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun)

Buddy Roogow, the longtime Maryland Lottery director who left to run the D.C. Lottery in 2009, was pronounced dead at Johns Hopkins Hospital on Saturday after suffering an aneurysm, the Washington agency announced. He was 65.

Mr. Roogow's sudden illness after going out to dinner Friday night with his wife and friends stunned his family and coworkers who knew him as a fit and active man.

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"He was an extremely involved father," said daughter Caroline Roogow of Baltimore. "He loved to be outside playing with us as kids and with his grandchildren, too."

She said her father, who still enjoyed tennis, racquetball and bike riding, had no plans to retire. "He loved to be busy," she said.

Mr. Roogow, who lived in Ellicott City with his wife, Billie, had the same high-energy reputation at work as well.

"He was the picture of health," said Tracey Cohen, the D.C. Lottery's chief operating officer, who was helping the Roogow family on Sunday.

She said she had spoken to him by telephone on Friday night at around 8:30 p.m. while he was finishing dessert with his wife and some friends. He fell ill later that night and was transported to Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he died on Saturday.

"There were no signs or symptoms," She said.

Mr. Roogow grew up in Allentown, Pa., before moving to Baltimore when he was 12. He attended Pimlico Middle School and graduated from Baltimore City College in 1967. He went on to earn bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Maryland in the early 1970s. He started his career as an urban planning consultant for a private firm, according to a press release from Washington government.

From 1988 to 1991 he worked as the county administrative officer in Howard County under then-County Executive Elizabeth Bobo before moving into state government under Democratic former Govs. William Donald Schaefer and Parris N. Glendening.

He served as deputy chief of staff for both governors before Mr. Glendening appointed Mr. Roogow to be director of the Maryland Lottery in October 1996. Under Mr. Roogow, the Maryland agency experienced 12 consecutive years of "record-breaking sales" and shepherded casinos into Maryland before he left to lead the D.C. Lottery in 2009, according to the D.C. Lottery announcement.

In a 2008 Baltimore Sun article, Mr. Roogow spoke about some of his interests and about his job giving away billions of dollars.

"I do get a little envious at times," he said. "But we all have a certain role to play, and mine is to give away money."

He expressed a love of astronomy and reading Stephen Hawking's theories, a desire to travel to the Galapagos Islands, completing his "S-gauge American Flyer model train layout," and fantasies to spend a day with the cast of "Seinfeld" and to play outfield for the Orioles.

"I'd like to play for at least one game before they boo me off the field," he told The Sun. "I can catch a fly ball, but I probably can't hit a 90-mile-an-hour fastball."

Caroline Roogow said her father had a great sense of humor and was known for his "big laugh."

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"In college I was not allowed to call during 'Seinfeld,'" she said.

Her father held a lifelong interest in astronomy. He would often go to his children's schools to talk about astronomy and always took them outside to spot planets with his telescope. She said he loved to travel with his family, including summer and winter vacations in West Virginia.

"His family meant the world to him," she said.

Mr. Glendening could attest to that. He said Mr. Roogow asked for the lottery job so that he could have more predictable work hours for his family. Mr. Glendening was thrilled because he was confident Mr. Roogow would bring "full integrity" to an agency with tremendous potential for misdeeds.

"Other states have had major problems in their lottery commissions, and Maryland has not," Mr. Glendening said. "Buddy had a significant role in that."

Tracey Cohen said that is one reason why Mr. Roogow also was a leader in the lottery industry. In 2012 he was named the president of the North American Association of State & Provincial Lotteries at an event in Montreal, Canada. He was scheduled to give an opening talk at a conference on lotteries in Washington next month.

"He really believed in what he did," said Ms. Cohen, who worked for Mr. Roogow at the Maryland Lottery. "The tears and hugs are coming in from around the world."

Mr. Roogow always took time to walk around the office to get to know all of his employees' names and their personal stories. He frequently called employees who were out sick or on maternity leave, and often interacted with lottery players. He was known to carry a lottery ticket to give away to people.

"He was the best boss," Ms. Cohen said.

When he left the Maryland Lottery in 2009, he said that he had "gotten everything in place to move forward with slots." He persevered through 13 years, three different administrations and one critical audit in 2002.

Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, said Mr. Roogow was a top-notch, nonpartisan public servant who was an "enthusiastic salesman" for the lottery.

"I'm really shocked," Mr. Ehrlich said. "It's a sad day in Maryland. He leaves a terrific legacy."

In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Roogow is survived by a son, David; another daughter, Robyn; his brother, Alan Roogow, of Baltimore; and five grandchildren.

Funeral services are planned for 1 p.m. on Tuesday at Sol Levinson & Bros. in Pikesville.

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