In the middle of Allegheny Commons, one of Pittsburgh's oldest parks, is a beautiful fountain that for decades was a focal point and source of pride for the community, but eventually needed renewal as time took its toll.
For Patricia Rooney, the late wife of late Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney, it had always been a special place, the park was somewhere she loved to go as the family lived close by on the North Side.
It was her passion, her love of the park, that spearheaded a restoration of the fountain in conjunction with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and others, with the fountain brought back to its original grandeur.
The fountain is one of the many things that is part of her legacy and that legacy will live forever as the fountain was renamed the Patricia Regan Rooney Memorial Fountain by the City of Pittsburgh, with a plaque unveiled in her honor on Thursday. She passed away in January, but her love of the North Side neighborhood where she was born and lived during different periods of her life will live on forever.
"We are honored to be here today," said Steelers President Art Rooney II, her eldest son. "My mother, this park truly was the center of her life. She was born and raised in the Mexican War Streets on Taylor Avenue. When she was first married, we lived over on Cedar Avenue (right next to the park). One of my earliest memories is I was out here building a snowman in the park. My aunt and I were proud of our effort. We went into our apartment and brought my mother to the window to see the snowman and there were two kids knocking the snowman down at that point. My mother, of course, went to the door and started screaming at them to get out of there. She was a true North Sider. Her last days she lived her life on the other side of the park.
"The park was truly the center of her life. It's very special."
The City of Pittsburgh dedicated a fountain in Allegheny Commons Park to the late Patricia Regan Rooney
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto led the dedication ceremony, sharing the passion that Mrs. Rooney, who died in January, had in her heart as she worked tirelessly on the renovation efforts.
"We are here to remember a very special neighbor, somebody who grew up here, somebody who raised her family here, somebody who lived her life here with her loving husband," said Mayor Peduto. "Somebody who this park meant so much to her because it was part of her life from the very beginning. She wanted to make sure it was there for the children of the North Side, and for every other Pittsburgher for the future. When we think of Mrs. Rooney, we think of somebody who was generous, compassionate and persistent. She was the driving force in restoring this gem back to what it was and what it will be in the future. As we dedicate this fountain that would not have happened without her active participation, she was the driving force that brought everyone else around it and allowed all of us to be a part of this beautiful transformation. It's much more than a dedication of a fountain today. It's the rededication of the North Side.
"As we were talking about this, we knew what week we had to have it. The week we chose was Mother's Day. She was a matriarch for all of us."
Mrs. Rooney committed herself to helping with every aspect of the renovation, from hosting committee meetings at her home to fundraising.
"I think this is absolutely wonderful," said her daughter, Pat Gerrero, who unveiled the plaque along with her sister, Duffy Rooney. "She worked so hard to try and get the funding for this. She used to talk about this all of the time. I am so happy that they decided to dedicate it in her name. It was really very meaningful to her. She loved this park, loved this area. We grew up a block away from here. It's a gorgeous fountain too. It's spectacular.
"She never wanted to be recognized. She may not be as happy as we are. She deserves this. She worked so hard. It's so neat this is what is dedicated to her.I am so excited to bring my grandchildren here. I liked that a little boy showed up and was playing during it. It was perfect."
Perfect was definitely the right word. Under blue skies and sunshine that has been missing from the city the past few days, the fountain was turned on as friends and family watched, bringing new life and joy to the area.
"I think my mother was hoarding up some rare sunshine for us to do this dedication today," said Art Rooney II. "It's a very special day. It's been part of our family, this park for many years now. It's pretty special that my mother got this done.
"It took a long time to get it done, pull it all together. When it finally was up and running and they turned the switch on, I know my mom was really happy. I couldn't be happier this was named in her honor."
The fountain is surrounded by benches, with one of them dedicated 'In loving memory or Patricia Rooney,' from friends from PNC Bank, who were very active with her in the renovation of the fountain.
"She has an everlasting impact that will go on forever in this city," said Lou Cestello, Regional President of PNC Bank. "We wanted to do something that will last in memory of Mrs. Rooney. Being from the North Side and having this park and fountain in her honor is so appropriate. Folks at PNC wanted to dedicate this bench for folks to enjoy when people are here, thinking about Mrs. Rooney and reflecting and the thoughts about being so compassionate, caring and giving to the rest of the city like she was."