Andy Rooney delivered his first 60 Minutes commentary on July 2, 1978, railing against the media tradition of tallying highway deaths during holiday weekends. But Rooney, who died Nov. 4 at 92 of complications following surgery, worked at CBS for nearly 60 years and spent 30 years of his career behind the camera. He always considered himself a writer first. Rooney grew up in Albany, N.Y., was drafted into the Army in 1941 and won a Bronze Star for his reporting under fire at the Battle of Saint-Lo. Here, former ABC News correspondent Brian Rooney remembers his dad.
One year, on the night before Halloween, my father lined up his four children in the kitchen, handed us each a partial bar of soap, and said, “Get out and soap some windows.”
He thought being a kid should be fun and a little reckless. We lived in a small town in Connecticut with lots of hills where he taught us how to ride a Flexible Flyer down streets hard-packed with snow. It didn’t seem to trouble him that we had to dodge cars while doing it.
He took us winter camping, without a tent. We made an igloo out of snow and went to sleep inside until the weather warmed, rain fell and it started to melt. I woke in the middle of the night to see him standing over the campfire, trying to dry our wet clothes.
We had a long toboggan that he hitched with a rope to the bumper of the family station wagon and dragged us all over town in a snowstorm. He drove with his head out the window looking back at us, and we’d shout, “Faster, faster!!”
He gave me my first pocketknife and taught me how to use a power saw. He said, “It doesn’t seem right, but it’s safer when your fingers are closer to the blade.”
We had a volunteer fire department, and whenever a horn went off down at the fire station, he packed us all in the car and drove us across town to watch somebody’s house burn down. He felt it was a civic duty.
My father was a man of his times. He did not hug you or tell you, “I love you.” He didn’t tell us we were wonderful. But if you had to get up at 6 a.m. to drive 300 miles, he’d get up at 5 and make you fresh popovers before you left.
Brian Rooney is one of Andy Rooney’s four children and his only son. His sister Emily hosts Greater Boston, a PBS public affairs program.