Reporting Mary Robb Jackson
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Just three days before the 40th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception and a week after he stepped down as the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, Pittsburgh Steelers’ owner Dan Rooney was honored by his hometown.
With his thatch of white hair and blue-gray-green eyes, he was our man in Ireland.
“I’d hereby declare Dec. 20, 2012, Ambassador Daniel M. Rooney Day,’” said Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl at a special ceremony on Thursday.
With legions of fans on both sides of the Atlantic, Ambassador Dan Rooney and his wife, Patricia, have come home after more than three years in residence at Dublin’s Phoenix Park.
“I will say to you that my wife, Patricia, is very happy to be back,” said Rooney.
The grandson of an Irish immigrant, Rooney, 80, forged strong bonds between the land of his forbears and his hometown.
“I did brag about Pittsburgh throughout my time in Ireland; and I can tell you this, there are more Steeler fans now than you can imagine,” said Rooney.
For Rooney, the highmark of his Irish memories came with the arrival of President Obama who was visiting his own roots.
“A town called Moneygall, and he shook hands with everybody in the town,” said Rooney of the President. “It started to rain and I said, ‘Mr. President, we better go in this pub;’ and he said, ‘No, no I gotta take care of my people.’”
Rooney is the only U.S. Ambassador to visit every single Irish county.
“The peace in Ireland was the biggest accomplishment of all, but there were some fun times I must admit,” he said.
It would take far more than one day to celebrate the good works of Dan Rooney. But there’s something comforting in knowing that he’s back in the family’s North Side homestead in the shadow of Heinz Field with his beloved team and his son now running the show.
“He doesn’t need a lot of help. I sometimes give him advice, and he takes it or he doesn’t; but he always says to me, ‘You did the same with your father.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’m the guy in the middle, I guess,’” he said.
And a very tough act to follow.