My kids loved you, Mr. Rogers
"Its you, I like, not your hair or your shoe."
And to the t.v. they sang back,
"I love you too."
Katie couldn't watch your legacy without a tear.
I can't either because you knew about us no wrong.
Early morning or afternoon both times we watched.
Soft gentle ways, sane and four square made strong.
Goodbye, Good Neighbor; 'Mr.
Fred Rogers, who gently invited millions of children to be his neighbor as
host of the public television show ``Mister Rogers' Neighborhood'' for more
than 30 years, died of cancer early Thursday. He was 74. Rogers died at his
Pittsburgh home, said family spokesman David Newell, who played Mr. McFeely
on the show. Rogers had been diagnosed with stomach cancer sometime after
the holidays, Newell said.
``He was so genuinely, genuinely kind, a wonderful person,'' Newell said.
``His mission was to work with families and children for television. ...
That was his passion, his mission, and he did it from day one.''
From 1968 to 2000, Rogers, an ordained Presbyterian minister, produced the
show at Pittsburgh public television station WQED. The final new episode,
which was taped in December 2000, aired in August 2001, though PBS
affiliates continued to air back episodes. Rogers composed his own songs for
the show and began each episode in a set made to look like a comfortable
living room, singing ``It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood,'' as he
donned sneakers and a zip-up cardigan.
``I have really never considered myself a TV star,'' Rogers said in a 1995
interview. ``I always thought I was a neighbor who just came in for a
His message remained simple: telling his viewers to love themselves and
others. On each show, he would take his audience on a magical trolley ride
into the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, where his puppet creations would
interact with each other and adults. Rogers did much of the puppet
work and voices himself. He also studied early childhood development at the
University of Pittsburgh and consulted with an expert there over the years.
``He was certainly a perfectionist. There was a lot more to Fred than I
think many of us saw,'' said Joe Negri, a guitarist who on the show played
the royal handyman in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe and owner of ``Negri's
Negri said Rogers refused to accept shoddy ad-libbing by guests who may have
thought they could slack off during a kid's show. But Rogers could also
enjoy taping as if he were a child himself, Negri recalled. Once, he said,
the two of them fell into laughter because of the difficulty they had
putting up a tent on the show. Rogers taught children how to share, deal
with anger and even why they shouldn't fear the bathtub by assuring them
they'll never go down the drain.
During the Persian Gulf War, Rogers told youngsters that ``all children
shall be well taken care of in this neighborhood and beyond - in times of
war and in times of peace,'' and he asked parents to promise their children
they would always be safe.
``We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility,'' he said in
1994. ``It's easy to say 'It's not my child, not my community, not my world,
not my problem.' ``Then there are those who see the need and respond. I
consider those people my heroes.''
Rogers came out of broadcasting retirement last year to record public
service announcements for the Public Broadcasting Service telling parents
how to help their children deal with the anniversary of the Sept. 11
``If they see the tragedy
replayed on television, they might think it's happening at that moment,'' he
Rogers' show won four Emmy Awards, plus one for lifetime achievement. He was
given a George Foster Peabody Award in 1993, ``in recognition of 25 years of
beautiful days in the neighborhood.'' At a ceremony marking the show's 25th
anniversary that year, Rogers said, ``It's not the honors and not the titles
and not the power that is of ultimate importance. It's what resides
The show's ratings peaked in 1985-86 when about 8 percent of all U.S.
households with televisions tuned in. By the 1999-2000 season, viewership
had dropped to about 2.7 percent, or 3.6 million people. As other children's
programming opted for slick action cartoons, Rogers stayed the same and
stuck to his soothing message.
Off the set, Rogers was much like his television persona. He swam daily,
read voraciously and listened to Beethoven. He once volunteered at a state
prison in Pittsburgh and helped set up a playroom there for children
visiting their parents. One of Rogers' red sweaters hangs in the Smithsonian
Rogers was born in Latrobe, 30 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. Early in his
career, Rogers was an unseen puppeteer in ``The Children's Corner,'' a local
show he helped launch at WQED in 1954. In seven years of unscripted, live
television, he developed many of the puppets used in his later show,
including King Friday XIII and Curious X the Owl.
He was ordained in 1963 with a charge to continue his work with children and
families through television. That same year, Rogers accepted an offer to
develop ``Misterogers,'' his own 15 minute show, for the Canadian
Broadcasting Corp. He brought the show back to Pittsburgh in 1966,
incorporating segments of the CBC show into a new series distributed by the
Eastern Educational Network to cities including Boston, Philadelphia and
In 1968, ``Misterogers' Neighborhood'' (the spelling changed later) began
distribution across the country through National Educational Television,
which later became the Public Broadcasting Service.
Rogers' gentle manner was the butt of some comedians. Eddie Murphy parodied
him on ``Saturday Night Live'' in the 1980s with his ``Mister Robinson's
Neighborhood,'' a routine Rogers found funny and affectionate.
Rogers is survived by his wife, Joanne, a concert pianist; two sons; and two