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'Beloved Coach' : Friends, Family Mourn Slain Security Guard

December 22, 1988|MICHELE FUETSCH | Times Staff Writer

SOUTH GATE — In October, Patrick Rooney, an armored-car security guard, attended funeral services for his friend and co-worker Stewart Tecson, who was killed in a holdup during a delivery at a Panorama City bank.

Recently Rooney, 35, father of two teen-age sons, told his wife and an uncle that if anything happened he was to be buried next to his father and mother in the family plot at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier.

"I told him I don't want to hear that and when the time comes we'll have our own (plot)," Becky Rooney recalled.

Under a cold, gray sky Tuesday, Patrick Rooney was buried next to his father and mother in in Rose Hills.

He died last Thursday morning in the doorway of the Lucky Food Center on Lakewood Boulevard in Bellflower. Like his friend, Rooney was shot in the head, execution-style, by an unknown gunman who grabbed the bag of money Rooney was carrying, and disappeared.

Police Pursuing Leads

The holdup in which Rooney died is the 15th involving armored cars in Southern California during the past year. Police, who believe the same group is responsible for the holdups, say they are pursuing several leads in the Rooney case.

Less than two hours before he died, Rooney telephoned his wife just to say, "Hi," something he did once or twice a day to reassure her that he was all right, she said. He did not talk often, she said, about the risk guards face each time they step out of their armored cars, but he believed that the job was becoming more dangerous and wanted to give it up next year.

Rooney had worked for Armored Transport of California 6 1/2 years. He made dozens of stops daily on the route he and his partner traveled five days a week through Bellflower, Downey and Paramount, Becky Rooney said.

Going to Choose Tree

"I asked him what time he would be home," she said, recalling their last conversation. "He said, 'Oh, about 7.' And I said, 'Remember, we have to pick out a Christmas tree tonight.' "

Last Thursday night, dozens of friends and co-workers stopped by to extend sympathies to Becky Rooney and sons John, 17, and Scott, 14. And one friend went out and brought back a Christmas tree for the family.

Downey-South Gate Area

The Rooneys grew up in the Downey-South Gate area, attending Warren High School. When he was 17 and she was 16, they were married at the Church of Christ in south Downey. They would have celebrated their 18th wedding anniversary the day after Christmas.

Rooney, who was president of the Downey Junior Athletic Assn., was described this week by family and friends as a fun-loving, outgoing man who enjoyed sports, dancing, '60s music, children and Christmas.

"It's his favorite time of the year," said Becky Rooney, recalling that her husband would spend hours wrapping gifts. Every holiday was important to him, she said. He carved pumpkins on Halloween and flew the flag on the Fourth of July.

"He always wanted to light all the fireworks," said Scott. "The kids would get mad at him," recalled Becky, smiling.

The Rooneys, who live on Cassina Avenue in South Gate, are surrounded by family. Several relatives live in the same block on Cassina, including Becky Rooney's mother, Tessie McWilliams. His sister, a single parent of four children, lives in the block, as does a sister-in-law, a single parent with a young son. Rooney was a father figure to all the children, his wife said.

Hundreds of other youngsters came to know Rooney over the years because of his volunteer work as a Little League baseball coach. Though their Little League days are over, members of the last team he coached, who are now in high school, gathered as a group Tuesday at the funeral. They sent a wreath that was entwined with a baseball jersey and the words, "Beloved Coach."

Friends involved with the junior athletic association have set up a fund for the Rooney family at Downey Savings & Loan on Florence Avenue.

The Saturday before his death, during the association's all-star football game at Apollo Park, Rooney helped cook hundreds of hot dogs to raise money for the nonprofit recreation group. Through its baseball, football and basketball programs, the association provides year-round, competitive sports activities for youngsters of elementary and junior high school age.

Met During Games

"It was the last Saturday I saw him," said Allan Tyner of Downey, a truck driver for an area metals company and a past president of the association. Like Rooney, Tyner has two sons who played in Little League. For years, the two fathers would see each other every Saturday morning during the season at their boys' games.

Last Saturday morning, Tyner said, Rooney mentioned that he was glad to be working a route that put him on this side of the county, away from what he thought were the more dangerous routes he had worked in Watts and Inglewood.

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