Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011

Andy Rooney

Hardly a day passes without someone coming up to me to express heartfelt condolences for our loss. It's as if an old familiar friend has died, and they need to extend their sympathies to a member of his television family. Every Sunday night for 31 years, millions of people all over the country invited Andy into their homes. It was part of their weekly routine, something to share and talk about. Andy went viral long before the Internet.

He is remembered primarily as a humorist, but he was also a great journalist: as a decorated war correspondent, he flew on the second American bombing raid of Germany and was one of the first U.S. reporters to witness the horrors at the Buchenwald concentration camp. He was a keen observer of human nature and found much of his material in the mundane: the everyday situations and rituals that form a bond between people. I think why was his favorite word. His pre-60 Minutes documentary Mr. Rooney Goes to Washington is a classic piece of D.C. reportage, consisting mostly of Andy asking government employees what they did for a living. Few of them turned out to be indispensable.

Andy was of my parents' generation, the ones who raised the baby boomers. They remembered Charles Lindbergh's flight, lived through the Great Depression and fought in World War II. It's a voice that's slowly falling silent, and that's a loss for all of us.

Kroft is a correspondent for 60 Minutes