Dear Mr. Rooney,
I woke up this morning to the sad news that you had passed away. While I suppose I really shouldn’t be all that upset (considering you did live to the ripe old age of 93) I can’t help but feel a sense of emptiness inside whenever I think that you will no longer be here.
No, you do not know who I am but I certainly know you. Years ago, my grandmother told me all about how she loved watching your performances as Andy Hardy in “A Family Affair” and “Love Laughs at Andy Hardy”. Films that were well before my time.
For the next few days, I’ll be reading obituaries from people and publications who will try their best to memorialize your life and body of work. Most of them will remember you for things like your honorary Oscars, hanging out with Judy Garland and Audrey Hepburn or being one of the last real heroes from Hollywood’s Golden Age. And I’m sure the gossip columns will once again bring up your failed marriages (including a short one to legendary actress Ava Gardner) or claims of elder abuse.
But me? I will always remember you for just one thing. Not for Andy Hardy or Mr. Yunioshi from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” or even the mentally challenged Bill Sackter, the role that won you a Golden Globe and Emmy Award. On the contrary, I will always remember you as Santa Claus, the clay mation character you portrayed in those wonderful 1970’s Rankin Bass specials that I enjoyed watching every year as a child.
Because whether you know it or not, you taught me valuable lessons in your performances as Kris Kringle. Important, philosophical things like:
How to put one foot in front of the other:
And most importantly, how to believe in Santa Claus.
Whenever I watch these specials (even all of these years later) I am young again and you are still here.
So as you go forth on to your final destination, take comfort in the fact that generations of children (even forty-five year old ones like me) will always think fondly of you at the end of every year.
Godspeed Mr. Rooney.