Those We Lost: Recent Passings in the Irish-American community

Andy Rooney

By Irish America Staff
December / January 2012

John Calley
John Calley, former chief executive at Warner Brothers, United Artists and Sony Pictures, died September 13 at 81 in Los Angeles. Just a few credits include A Clockwork Orange, Jerry Maguire and The Da Vinci Code.

He was born July 8, 1930 in Jersey City. He attended Columbia and joined the army before getting his start at NBC as a mail clerk, eventually becoming director of nighttime programming. He went on to become executive vice president of Warner Brothers in 1969 and president in 1975, helping produce such hits as The Exorcist, Chariots of Fire, and many more. He was quite different from typical Hollywood executives, described as witty and fun. After quitting in 1980, he returned to film after accepting an offer to become president of United Artists in 1993. He helped UA turn around with films such as GoldenEye and Leaving Las Vegas. In 1996 he was named president of Sony, and stepped down in 2003.

Calley’s survivors include daughter Sabrina Calley and stepchildren Emily Zinneman, David Zinneman and Will Firth.


Robert Finigan
Robert Finigan, a well-respected wine critic famous for his newsletter, Robert Finigan’s Private Guide to Wines, passed away in San Francisco on October 1. The cause is yet to be determined. He was 68 years old. Finigan established his newsletter in 1972, catering to Bay Area wine lovers. In 1977, the newsletter went national.

Finigan traveled to Bordeaux, France to critique the 1982 Bordeaux wine. After expressing a low opinion of the wine in opposition to several critics and consumers, Finigan lost readership. The Private Guide to Wines newsletter went out of business in 1990.

However, Finigan continued to write successful books such as Corks and Forks: Thirty Years of Wine and Food (2006), his most recent publication.

Born to Mary and James Finigan on September 22, 1943 in Richmond, Va., Finigan attended Harvard University, where his interest in wine was first sparked. He graduated in 1965 and received his master’s degree in 1968.

He is survived by his wife, Suzanne, and his sister, Jane Rakip.


Father Philip Hannan
Former Archbishop of New Orleans, Father Philip Hannan died September 29 at the age of 98. A strong leader in the church and a close friend of President John F. Kennedy, he is best remembered for giving Kennedy’s eulogy in 1963. He also presided over the funeral services for Senator Robert Kennedy in 1968 and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in 1994.

Hannan was born May 20, 1913 to Patrick and Lillian Hannan. He was ordained in 1939 after receiving degrees from the Gregorian University in Rome and Catholic University of America. In 1942, he volunteered as a paratroops chaplain and earned the nickname “The Jumping Padre.”

An advocate for conservative politics, he pushed for church support of nuclear armament and strongly opposed abortion. Yet, he also stood for liberal social policies , guiding the church’s establishment of an AIDs hospice and creating the largest housing complex for the elderly and poor.

Hannan is survived by his brother.


Andy Rooney
The curmudgeonly yet beloved voice of the 60 Minutes segment “A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney” for 33 years, Rooney died on November 4th in a New York hospital, following complications from a minor surgery. He was 92, and had delivered his last broadcast on October 2.

Born on January 14 in Albany, NY to Walter and Ellinor Rooney, he demonstrated an interest in writing and journalism from a young age – working as a copy boy at The Knickerbocker News before enrolling at Colgate University, where he wrote for the college newspaper.

He was drafted into the Army in 1941 and eventually became a Sergeant, also working as a reporter for Stars and Stripes. His time in the war provided him with material for My War, one of the 12 books he would go on to publish.

After the war, Rooney did freelance work, before convincing Arthur Godfrey at CBS to hire him as a writer. Though he wrote for a slew of other celebrities and was a frequent contributor to national magazines and newspapers, Rooney became best known for his weekly television essays on 60 Minutes, the topics of which ranged from seemingly mundane things such as doors and cereal boxes to discussions of baseball, college tuition and, occasionally, current affairs.

Rooney also garnered attention for various insulting remarks, some of which resulted in his suspension from the airwaves for brief periods of time. Of his Irish roots, he once said “I’m proud of my Irish heritage, but I’m not Irish. I’m not even Irish-American. I am American, period.” In his last broadcast, he gave a perfect summation of his spirit and his legacy, stating, “I’ve done a lot of complaining here…but of all the things I’ve complained about, I can’t complain about my life.”

Rooney is survived by his four children with his wife of 62 years, Marguerite Howard, who predeceased him. He also leaves behind five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.


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