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Andy Rooney's CBS Colleague Steve Kroft Recalls his 'Quiet, Modest Presence'

Andy Rooney: 1919-2011
CBS Photo Archive ©1982

The late contributor's longtime "60 Minutes" associate describes his honest, rumpled offscreen personality.

This story first appeared in the Nov. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Andy Rooney always said he would never retire and would work until the day he died. Save the past few weeks in the hospital, he managed to do it.

What a life: 92 years of doing what you love to do while engaging and entertaining millions of people. You should know he enjoyed every minute of it and considered himself the luckiest man on the planet.

The first words I ever spoke on the show were, "Those stories and Andy Rooney tonight on 60 Minutes." For 33 years, it was part of our mantra, with Andy sharing and deserving top billing. It saddens me that it will not be heard again.

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Andy was the most popular person ever on the program, always providing a much anticipated and unpredictable final course at the end of a solid meal. Sometimes he offered up a confection, sometimes a shot of Irish whiskey -- but always delivered with a twinkle in the eye.

In a 60 Minutes environment dominated by big personalities, he was a quiet, modest and supremely confident presence despite the sometimes gruff exterior.

His appeal was that he was genuine and honest, plain spoken and pretension free. He said exactly what was on his mind. Not long after joining 60 Minutes, I was invited to help Andy and his wife Marge celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary at New York's Cosmopolitan Club and found myself in a roomful of notables, most of whom had nothing to do with the television business. I expressed my gratitude to Andy for being included. He said, "I'm glad you enjoyed yourself; you just barely made the final cut."

He always looked slightly rumpled in his blue blazer and tweed jackets. But the lasting image I have of him is Andy in winter trudging down 57th Street or through the 60 Minutes hallways in a parka and galoshes, looking as though he had just finished shoveling his driveway.

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He was an industrious, blue-collar kind of guy who refused to cross the picket line when the WGA went on strike against CBS. He was a craftsman at heart with a passion for woodworking, constructing furniture and cabinets with the same care and enthusiasm that he constructed his sentences.

He was an observer and philosopher, much like Will Rogers, extolling simple pleasures and sharing pet peeves. His special talent was identifying and investigating the minutiae and rituals that clutter our daily lives and form the connective tissue that bonds us. He had a gift for putting his finger on the absurdities of modern life.

Perhaps more important, Andy was one of the last living public personages of a great generation and its values, someone people enjoyed having in their living rooms. He was clever, amusing and a beacon of common sense. He will be missed.

Steve Kroft has worked at CBS News for 31 years. He joined 60 Minutes in 1989.