FLINT, MI -- Robert Perani said one of his father's favorite phrases put an emphasis on the value of hard work: If it was easy, everybody would be doing it.
Bob Perani, a former hockey player turned businessman in the Flint area whose name graces the city's entertainment and sports arena, died at the age of 69 this morning while on an international flight from Detroit to Tokyo on his way back to his retirement home in Thailand.
"He could be serious when it was needed, but he was more of a teacher and had that type of demeanor, not only with me but my sister (Lahna Ward) and all the employees that worked for us," said Robert Perani. "It wasn’t a boss/employee relationship. He wanted people to learn lessons in life. The things you did on the job reflected how you lived your life."
Robert said Bob would work tireless hours in building up Perani's Hockey World
, which encompasses 17 sporting goods stores in the United States and two in Canada since it began in 1976.
The business is now run by Robert Perani and three other people, which he said comes with some added pressure.
"It's not an easy task because not only do you have high expectations of what you've seen," he said. "People are judging me and grading me on what my dad did."
Robert said his father was able to mix business with pleasure, stating "That made the connections with the people around him stronger and tighter because of that" and his word was as good as a contract."
Bob Perani was getting ready to sell his home in Thailand, which he'd chosen as a retirement spot based on a friend's recommendation, and move back to the area to become more involved in the business and start an import/export business for antiques.
"He liked antiques. It was his next passion outside of the hockey business," said Robert. Several hundred items from Perani's antique collection were sold off in July 2009
, including a life-size mechanical elephant, carousels and miniature cars.
Jim Cain, president of Firland Management which owns and operates Perani Arena, said he received a phone call about Perani's death Sunday.
While he said the pair did not have a personal relationship, "I know that he became one of the biggest sporting good retailers in the nation. He was well known."
Robert Perani said Bob Perani was in good shape health-wise and returning to his normal self after his wife, Kris, passed in 2006 at 62.
"It was all of a sudden," he said. "He was actually acting more towards normal that everyone remembered before he passed away."
"He was a complicated man to some and a simple man to others, but always a friend," Robert said.
Memorial services will take place at Swartz Funeral Home on Hill Road, but Robert Perani said the final details have not been completed.