Sports legends, national leaders expected for Rooney funeral – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Dan Rooney was remembered as an affectionate man of the people and visionary leader of an NFL dynasty during an 80-minute funeral Mass Tuesday in Oakland. The service included attendees such as former president Barack Obama, former secretary of state John Kerry and dozens of current and former Steelers. 

Art Rooney II, Mr. Rooney’s son, eulogized his father, saying his core values were “faith, family and football.”

“The greatest invention for my dad was the cell phone,” Art Rooney II said at Saint Paul Cathedral. “He loved to talk to people on the phone and hated to miss a call.”

Art Rooney II told the cathedral of the time his sister Joan was born in 1968. His dad went to the hospital for the birth, then went to the office and fired Steelers coach Bill Austin. 

“Fortunately,” he said, “it was the last time we fired a coach.”

Mr. Rooney lived a “very long and good life … this wonderful story of a wonderful man,” Cardinal Donald Wuerl said during his homily. 

“He grew up learning on the streets of the North Side, and in the halls of North Catholic,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “You judge people by who they are, not the color of their skin.”

One of Mr. Rooney’s lasting legacies is the creation of the “Rooney Rule,” which requires NFL teams interview minority candidates for head coaching jobs.

Cardinal Wuerl told the crowd a story of Mr. Rooney arriving at a ceremonial blessing of Heinz Field before the stadium opened in 2001, when construction workers were excited to see the team’s owner. 

“It spoke to the great affection the people of this community had for him,” Cardinal Wuerl said. 

“One of the reasons there is so much affection for Dan Rooney is because he was a man of the people. He worked hard.

“A good man, a good neighbor. He was a Pittsburgher.” 

Cardinal Wuerl stopped to turn toward Patricia Rooney, Mr. Rooney’s widow. 

“He loved you,” he said. 

People began arriving for the service before 10 a.m.

Of the eight pallbearers who carried Rooney’s casket up the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral, all but one were grandsons: Ike Taylor, the best cornerback on two Super Bowl teams, occupied a front position on the left side.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry were joined by other political leaders from Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Washington and Ireland. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and former commissioner Paul Tagliabue were in the crowd.

Several coaches — including Western Pennsylvania natives Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengals and Mike McCarthy of the Green Bay Packers — were in attendance. Owners of several teams, including New England’s Robert Kraft, Dallas’ Jerry Jones, Cincinnati’s Mike Brown, Cleveland’s Jimmy Haslam, New York’s John Mara and Carolina’s Jerry Richardson, were in attendance.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and his wife, Kiya, also took in the Mass.

Former Pennsylvania Governor and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge was there, as was U.S. Senator Bob Casey; the senator put out the following statement:

“With the passing of Dan Rooney, our Commonwealth lost a son of Pittsburgh’s North Side who will be remembered as much for his kindness to others as his achievements in leading one of the most successful NFL franchises. Dan’s integrity, decency, and humility were an example to all of us– as Steelers fans, as Pennsylvanians and as Americans. Whether it was building an organization that won six Super Bowls, chairing the NFL Diversity Committee which implemented the Rooney Rule, or his many charitable endeavors, Dan Rooney always made us proud that he was a Pennsylvanian. He also served our country with distinction as U.S. Ambassador to Ireland. On behalf of the entire Casey family and families across our state, we say goodbye today to a faithful friend, devoted husband and father, and an honorable Pennsylvanian.”

Wreaths were placed on the doors of St. Paul’s Cathedral in the hours before the service. 

Mr. Rooney died last week at age 84.

There was a public viewing for family and fans on Monday at the PNC Champions Club at Heinz Field.

Mr. Rooney is survived by his wife, Patricia, and seven of the couple’s nine children. The family is asking that memorial contributions be made to Mr. Rooney’s alma mater, Duquesne University, or the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania.


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