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Francis C. Rooney Of Rye, Who Helped Transform Retail Business, Dies At 93

Francis C. Rooney Jr.
Francis C. Rooney Jr. Photo Credit: University of Penn/Wharton School

RYE, N.Y. -- Francis C. Rooney Jr., one of the nation's leading retail businessmen and a Rye resident, died Tuesday at Greenwich Hospital. He was 93.

Rooney was the former chief executive officer of the Melville Corporation. He transformed the company that had $180 million in revenue at the time he became chief executive officer at age 42 into a specialty retail business with over $7 billion of revenue at the time of his retirement in 1987.

In 1987, Melville's businesses included Marshall's, Linens & Things, K.B. Toys and CVS Drug Stores. Today, the company's name has changed from Melville Corp. to CVS Health Corporation. In 1990,  Rooney agreed to become CEO of H.H. Brown Shoe Co., Inc., which was owned by his late father-in -law. In 1991, the company was sold to Berkshire Hathaway Inc.  At Warren Buffett's request, Rooney became chairman of the company.

Rooney was committed to a number of civic causes including the Inner City Scholarship Fund, which today provides over 30,000 inner city children with scholarships to attend Catholic schools in New York City. He also served as a trustee of United Cerebral Palsy; Greenwich Hospital; March of Dimes; Smithsonian Institute; Boys & Girls Club of America; St. Ignatius School in the Bronx; The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania; Pace University; and Fordham University.

Rooney was born at home in North Brookfield, Mass. on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24, 1921. He graduated in 1939 from North Brookfield High School where he was captain of the basketball team, and he received his bachelor degree from the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton School) in 1943.

He graduated as an Ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve and was assigned that year to the battleship USS North Carolina in the Pacific. He was aboard as a gunnery officer in 10 major engagements between 1943 and 1945.

He began his business career in 1946 as a sales trainee with the John Foote Shoe Company in Brockton, Mass. Two years later, he went to work for the Florsheim Shoe Company in Chicago, and in 1953 he joined the Thom McAn Shoe Company, a subsidiary of Melville Shoe Corporation, as a buyer/ stylist. He rose to President of Thom McAn in 1961 and in 1964 he was elected Chairman, President and CEO of Melville Shoe Corporation.

Rooney is survived by his wife Frances Heffernan and eight children: Peter M. Rooney (Kathy) of Basking Ridge, N.J; Michael F. Rooney (Joann) of New Rochelle; Stephen G. Rooney (Susan) of Pelham Manor; Jean R. Weil (Jerry) of Greenwich; William A. Rooney (Amy) of Charlotte, N.C. Carol R. Flanagan (James) of Greenwich; Frances R. Cifrino (Michael) of Hingham, Mass. and Clare R. Butler (David) of Harrison, NY., as well as 27 grandchildren and five great grandchildren. M

The family will receive friends at the Graham Funeral Home, 1036 Boston Post Road, Rye, N.Y. 10580 on Friday from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at the Church of the Resurrection on Saturday at 11 a.m.

In lieu of flowers donations may be made in his memory to the Inner City Scholarship Fund. For information go to innercityscholarshipfund.org.

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