Wheaton resident John "Jack" Rooney, the retired president and CEO of U.S. Cellular, has died. He was 69.
A company spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday that Rooney died last Friday, but could not provide details.
"All of us are deeply saddened by the news of Jack's passing," Mary N. Dillon, U.S. Cellular president and CEO, said in a statement. "Our thoughts and heartfelt sympathy go out to his family and friends at this difficult time."
For more than 10 years, Rooney led the company "with all of his heart and soul and treated every associate like family," Dillon said.
"He was instrumental in transforming U.S. Cellular from a small regional carrier into the nation's sixth largest wireless provider by focusing on customer satisfaction and building a unique and powerful company culture," she said.
Rooney retired in May 2010, packing up his memories and family photos from his office, located off the Kennedy Expressway on Chicago's North Side.
"I viewed this job as my last hurrah, and every Irishman gets his last hurrah," Rooney had said during an interview at the time with the Daily Herald. "And I feel this has been the most productive time of my entire career. I've challenged people, and I let them work. I've had a great run."
John E. Rooney III was born and raised on Chicago's South Side and considered himself a "fair" student. He earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from John Carroll University in Ohio and an MBA in finance from Loyola University. He said the Jesuits educated him but his father John, a sales manager, taught him life lessons on how to work with people.
Rooney held various executive positions with the Federal Reserve Bank, Pullman Inc., Firestone and Ameritech. When SBC took over Ameritech, Rooney grabbed his exit package and left. He was quickly snapped up by U.S. Cellular in April 2000.
Rooney is credited with turning around this wireless provider by creating a culture of putting the customer first, a mantra that extends from the top throughout all 9,000 U.S. Cellular employees, he said.
Rooney also had an impact on the Chicago White Sox by signing a 23-year naming rights deal for the South Siders' ballpark in 2003. The highlight was the 2005 World Series win, he said.
Rooney had said he was proud of his work and he could sleep at night, knowing he did what he felt was right for the company. But personally speaking, it was a tough four years while his wife battled cancer. He stayed at his wife's side for her last six weeks of life ending in January 2010. His elderly mother also later died.
Rooney insisted at the time there was no connection between his retirement and his wife's death. It was "just time" to retire, he said, adding he wanted to enjoy life and his family.
Rooney is survived by daughters Kathleen Gallagher and Colleen Bradley, along with nine grandchildren.
A wake will take place Wednesday from 4-8 p.m. at Glen Oak Country Club, 21 W. 451 Hill Ave., Glen Ellyn. A mass will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Madonna della Strada Chapel, Loyola University, 1032 W Sheridan Road, Chicago.