For 36 years, Kevin Rooney served as one of the most prominent advocates of Long Island’s heating oil industry, known to legislators in Washington and Albany for his longevity and skill in the trade.
The London native and Nesconset resident, who served as chief executive officer of the Oil Heat Institute of Long Island, a trade association in Hauppauge representing the distillate fuels industry, died at home Saturday of pancreatic cancer. He was 68.
“Over the course of almost four decades, Kevin had become far more than our association CEO,” said Bruce Fuhrmann, chairman of the trade group. “He was the face of and voice for our industry’s interests to consumers, the media, governmental and elected officials at every level. No one loved this industry more than Kevin, and no one worked harder to preserve, protect and promote our industry than he did.”
Rooney made his mark as an effective spokesman for the industry. His professional background before his most recent post included a stint as director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs at the federal Department of Energy in Washington, a position for which he was nominated by President Ronald Reagan.
He had served as an energy policy adviser during the 1980 presidential campaign and during the transition period.
“He was a person so embedded in the fabric of Long Island’s economy that virtually everyone knew him, from Congress to private businessmen,” said Michael Dawidziak, a longtime political consultant. “He was extraordinarily well-informed and, on top of that, one of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet.”
Rooney wasn’t always a Long Island fixture. He became an American citizen in 1981 and considered the date of his naturalization “the proudest day of his life, other than his wedding day,” said his son, Brian, of Nesconset.
But he sought higher education here, having earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science from Long Island University, where he later joined the adjunct faculty to teach courses in European and American political theory.
“He was a warrior,” said longtime aide Vicki Denicker. “He just kept going and going. Came to work to the very end.”
In addition to his son, Rooney is survived by his wife of 45 years, Elaine; two daughters, Suzanne Sweeney of Morristown, New Jersey, and Kristen Masotto of Sag Harbor; a brother, Patrick, of Dillsburg, Pennsylvania; and seven grandchildren.
A funeral Mass was scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. James Lutheran Church on Woodlawn Avenue in St. James.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research.