In September of 2005 Hollywood icon Mickey Rooney pleaded with his daughter-in-law Charlene Rooney and his son and confidante Mark Rooney to help remove him from the violent abuse he endured for decades. Mickey was insistent they promise to see it through and never give up. Their long journey was a horrific series of heartbreaking disappointments and dead ends void of justice, answers or help of any kind for years. Charlene and Mark contacted countless attorneys, media, co-workers, friends, social workers, neighbors, accountants, legal aid and every family member and organization imaginable. With severe physical, financial and emotional abuse out of control, sadly one thing clearly evident was that this had to stop, and they were completely on their own.
On February 14, 2011 the Superior Court of Los Angeles issued restraining orders to protect them demanding several family members stay 100 yards from Mickey, Charlene, Mark and even their 17-year-old dog who was kicked in the face and the abusers threatened to hang. One month later, on March 2, 2011, Charlene and Mickey Rooney traveled to Washington, D.C. to publicly address the ugliness of an epidemic that had somehow engulfed their lives. Former Senator Herb Kohl of Wisconsin with the U.S. Senate Committee on Aging invited them to tell the Senate and the world their firsthand knowledge of the horrors of elder abuse. Upon their return home Mickey separated from his estranged wife and insisted that he reside permanently with Mark and Charlene – the Superior Court agreed. In June of 2012 they moved to a rental in Studio City, California. It was a move that the authorities felt saved his life. Their location was never disclosed and was described as confidential in future hearings for their safety. Although Mickey’s abusers had destroyed him financially, Charlene and Mark kept their promise and were able to give him a loving and safe home the final years of his life.
Mickey was proud that his celebrity gave him the opportunity to shine a light on the dark nightmare of abuse, but they knew there was much more to be done. They were never given the opportunity to tell the details of how this happened to him and the shocking hurdles that allowed it to go on as long as it did. How could this happen? People wanted to know and needed to know. Her riveting story of both struggle and hope conveys an important message that “telling the truth, speaking candidly and working together we can save our seniors, teach awareness and warning signs, change, make and modify our laws and let the bullies know that this will no longer be tolerated. This is extremely important now more than ever”.
Not only has Charlene become a dedicated advocate for the rights and safety of the elderly but she is also a cancer survivor. After receiving an extremely dire prognosis and undergoing two surgeries and six months of intense chemotherapy in 1990 she miraculously survived. She is affiliated with the OCRA (Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance) working closely with their CEO as a West Coast affiliate to help facilitate funding opportunities for research. She has been asked to speak with professional caregivers at the MPTF (Motion Picture and Television Fund) to promote understanding and empathy toward patients and improve job performance bridging the gap between caregiver and patient. She has also been included in the list of speakers with the EFPN (Elder Financial Protection Network). Standing steadfast by her moral convictions, she does not allow the malicious behavior perpetrated by abusers and bullies to interfere with the ideology and humanitarian philosophy instilled in her since childhood. In recognition, Charlene was also honored to learn this year of her nomination for one of our nation’s most prestigious humanitarian awards recognized by both Houses of Congress.
Mickey Rooney died on April 6, 2014 but his passionate concern for the elderly did not die with him. After his passing Charlene and Mark Rooney learned that Mickey had named them as the sole beneficiaries of his legacy. Part of that legacy is to keep their promise and commitment to share the truth he wanted known, to let other seniors know there is hope and that they are not alone. Mickey’s crypt is at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles with Charlene’s sketch honoring his heritage etched in marble as her loving and final gift to him.
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