Pat and John Rooney / Twin's familiar look


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This is part of "Remembering Art Rooney Sr.: A Father's Heirlooms Still Cherished." Click on headline to see complete story.


Pat and John Rooney haven't lived in Western Pennsylvania since they were 24 years old. They're largely unknown here, but, at 74, they're physically about the closest thing to the Chief as there is.

They've each got a healthy head of hair, just like their father, and they're proud of it.

On the day of the family draft in '88, Pat didn't want to take any of his father's heirlooms, but he wouldn't come away empty-handed either.

After the funeral weeks earlier, he had gone up to the Chief's bathroom on the second floor and found two hairbrushes. They were wooden and oval-shaped, the varnish coming off. Pat had given them to his father for Christmas when he was 10 or 11 years old, and the old man still had them. Pat happily took the brushes back to Florida.

Today, they can be found in Pat's bathroom. He uses them often -- further proof that the most valuable pieces aren't always the ones chosen on draft day.

• • •



For his sons, the image of Art Rooney Sr. brushing lanolin cream into his hair is right up there with him smoking a cigar or saying the rosary. The act happened so often it became ritual.

"The only degree of vanity I ever saw him have was that," Pat says. "He was trying to keep his hair."

Oil, gas and racing
(Click image for larger version)

John and Pat were asked to run the Liberty Bell racetrack near Philadelphia. After the family sold it, Pat went to Florida to run the Palm Beach Kennel Club. John would transition into running the family's oil and gas interests out of Louisiana.

As a boy, Pat once gave his father a set of hairbrushes for Christmas. After Art Sr.'s death, Pat reclaimed them and uses them often.


There was no doubt that the Chief became more vain as he aged, his legend growing with each Super Bowl win. People out there -- reporters, photographers, TV cameramen -- were always looking for him.

"He was at a funeral for some big shot," Art Jr. says, "and they panned the crowd. Later that day, we went and had dinner. They had a TV on top of the refrigerator, and he said, 'Hey, here I am again!' I said, 'My God, he's a ham!' "

Art Sr. always looked neat, his shoes shiny. Appearances mattered, and that applied to his sons.

In the '60s, Tim would go to work in Pittsburgh and hope that nobody mentioned the Steelers in the elevator. By the '80s, he'd walk into a meeting in New York and feel like everybody was staring at him.

"They look at you different than they would other people for some crazy reason," Tim says. "You run into the situation an awful lot of times."

Since they were boys, the Chief had taught them not to be "big shots." It's the reason he drove a Buick all those years. When John bought a Lincoln in the early '70s, his father scolded him. When Tim bought a Rolls-Royce, he kept it hidden from the Chief on several of his visits east. Finally, when Tim revealed it to him, Art Sr. was OK with it, especially after he'd been taken for a ride.

His vanity, though, was mostly focused on the hair. One day at Three Rivers, the Chief approached Art Jr. in front of a group of people, noticed his son was losing some hair in back and said, "I thought you'd never go bald! You're going bald!"

Art Jr. didn't know what to say. It certainly didn't make him feel very good.

Steelers

J. Brady McCollough: bmccollough@post-gazette.com and on Twitter @BradyMcCollough.


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