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A Life Well Lived: Dan Rooney's Humility and Humanity

Delivering the Homily at Rooney's funeral, Cardinal Donald Wuerl acknowledged a longstanding Rooney philosophical belief: “You can get anything done if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

The send-off, those that knew him might assume, was more than Dan Rooney would have wanted or needed.

But in the end, the message was direct and unmistakable, and that Rooney no doubt would have appreciated.

It started with five busloads of friends, family, current and former Steelers players and Steelers employees departing Heinz Field on a sun-splashed Tuesday morning.

The caravan wound its way around the stadium –– inside video boards that were otherwise black still displayed Rooney’s likeness in tribute –– and made its way up the Parkway East to the Forbes Avenue exit, from which the Steelers’ South Side practice facility (the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex) was visible.

The eventual destination was Saint Paul Cathedral in Oakland.

Inside, the mourners ranged from former President Barack Obama to T.C., perhaps Pittsburgh’s most-recognizable stadium vendor. Anne Anderson, the 17th Ambassador of Ireland to the United States, was there. So were John Kerry, Robert Casey, Jr., Roger Goodell, Paul Tagliabue, Robert Kraft, Jerry Jones, Mike McCarthy and Joe Manganiello, among others.

A former U.S. Secretary of State, a U.S. Senator, the NFL Commissioner and his predecessor, some of the league’s highest-profile owners and an actor; it had to be that way because that’s the type of respect Rooney commanded.

But what drew people from all walks of life to him, and what wound up being celebrated during the Mass of Christian Burial attended by run-of-the-mill Pittsburghers as well as all those big shots, was Rooney’s remarkable humility and humanity.

The procession of clergy was large enough to field an offense or a defense (depending on whether the coin toss had been won or lost), led by His Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington and the Principal Celebrant.

But the pallbearers were Rooney grandsons and Ike Taylor.

Taylor had come to regard Rooney as family over the years, a relationship Taylor was certain Rooney reciprocated.

The choice of Taylor to represent Steelers players in that capacity couldn’t have been more perfect.

Nor could the sentiments expressed in recognition of a life dedicated to faith, family, football and Ireland (son Art Rooney II admitted in his Reflection he wasn’t always certain of the order), and those that had been offered in the days since Rooney’s passing have been more genuine.

Wuerl acknowledged in the Homily a longstanding Rooney philosophical belief: “You can get anything done if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

Taylor had liked in recent years to tell a story about his having fallen asleep in Rooney’s office, and Rooney opting to vacate his office rather than disturb Taylor’s rest.

And Ben Roethlisberger reacted last week with a remembrance of being personally congratulated by Rooney in the locker room after games, a Steelers’ tradition with the players win or lose, even on those occasions when Roethlisberger had played poorly.

Another former longtime Steelers employee explained how he’d managed to become a longtime Steelers employee in the first place.

Early in his tenure with the team, he’d sought out Rooney for some advice on how to make his new position more permanent.

The response was pure Rooney:

“Do the right thing, don’t make mistakes. Be yourself, nobody likes a phony. And don’t be a big shot.”

Words to live by, words that inspire.

Words that define a life well lived.

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