Obituary: Rita Rooney / Daughter of Steelers owner was attorney and active church member

June 20, 1958 - Dec. 1, 2012

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Rita Rooney of Milton, Mass., daughter of Steelers owner and U.S. Ambassador Dan Rooney, died Saturday in Massachusetts. She was 54.

Ms. Rooney most recently served as director of faith formation at St. Elizabeth Parish in Milton, outside of Boston, and was working on a master's degree in theology at Boston College. She had taught religious education as a volunteer for several years to children preparing for confirmation before taking the full-time post about a year ago, the Rev. Aidan J. Walsh said.

"She was very active in the parish life. She was very highly thought of by the teachers and the people involved in the program," Father Walsh said, so much so that when the director position came open, parish leadership recommended her for it.

The job gave her responsibility for all of the parish education programs for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

"She was a very creative woman, a very gentle person, easy to approach," he said. She did not talk publicly about being in a prominent family, and few parishioners knew about her famous relatives until they got word of her passing.

"It's a great loss to the parish," Father Walsh said. "The people really loved her and relied on her."

Before accepting the church position, Ms. Rooney was a patent attorney with the law firm Cesari & McKenna in Boston. The firm released this statement on Tuesday:

"We are all deeply saddened by the sudden loss of our friend and former colleague, Rita Rooney. Rita was a valued member of our firm for many years. She combined a keen intellect with a caring and positive attitude, making her sought after by both clients and colleagues. She worked hard on all matters, and will be sorely missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends."

Ms. Rooney graduated from Brown University with a degree in electrical engineering in 1980 and earned her law degree at the University of Pittsburgh in 1983.

She served as law clerk to U.S. District Judge Edward S. Northrop in Maryland for about a year before joining Arthur Cox, a large law firm based in Dublin, Ireland, for four years. She worked at Pittsburgh-based Eckert Seamans from 1989 to 1991 before joining the Boston firm, where she worked from 1996 to 2011.

Ms. Rooney was active at Milton Academy, the prep school attended by her son, serving in the parents association as faculty appreciation chair and as vice president and president of the association from 2007 to 2009, said Gordon Sewall, assistant head of school for alumni and support. "She was a good volunteer in our parents association world," he said.

Ms. Rooney mostly avoided the spotlight that shone on other family members. In 2003, she was one of numerous family members who embarked on a re-creation of the epic Lewis and Clark journey to the Northwest 200 years earlier.

A spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Office of Chief Medical Examiner said findings of cause and manner of death were pending.

Ms. Rooney is survived by her father and mother, Patricia Rooney, of Pittsburgh; son Alexander Conway of Boston; sisters Patricia Gerrero and Mary Duffy of Pittsburgh, and Joan Clancy of Boston; and brothers Arthur Rooney and James Rooney of Pittsburgh, John Rooney of New York and Daniel Rooney of North Carolina.

Visitation will be from 2 to 8 p.m. Friday at Devlin Funeral Home, 806 Perry Highway, Ross. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at noon Saturday at St. Peter Roman Catholic Church, North Side. A memorial Mass is scheduled at 10 a.m. Dec. 15 at St. Elizabeth in Milton.

Memorial contributions were suggested to Catholic Charities of Pittsburgh or the Salvation Army Western Pennsylvania Division.

obituaries - Steelers - neigh_city - neigh_north

Jon Schmitz: jschmitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1868.


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