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Remembering Mr. Rogers
t;">It has been just over a week since the startling news of Fred Rogers’ sudden passing on Feb. 27, but the loss will long be felt. The tributes to the icon who revolutionized children’s television as the creator and star of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood have been plentiful.
t;">Rare is the man who touched so many people in such a simple but poignant and lasting way. His calm and reassuring presence resonates with us still. He understood children like no one else on TV, not just as someone who was trained in child development and had the gentle demeanor of an ordained minister, but most fundamentally as someone who listened to and respected children.
Meeting Mr. Rogers
I feel privileged to have interviewed Fred Rogers a few years ago at the Pittsburgh TV station where he taped his shows. In person, he was exactly as you would expect him to be. He exuded a gentle calm and, of course, a big heart. He talked quietly and slowly, but candidly. He asked as many questions about me as I was able to ask of him. He was genuinely interested in my life, my family and my children.
t;">Whenever I redirected the focus back to him—I was supposed to be the one interviewing him, after all!—he responded with thoughtful insight and understanding. He talked fondly about his own family, his career and, most important, what all children need. (It hasn’t changed much since he began his TV career in the late 1950s, he said.) We were scheduled to speak for an hour, but we spent close to three hours talking.
t;">He gave me a tour of the Neighborhood. I held King Friday XIII. I sat inside the castle. I saw his sweaters and his sneakers. Then he graciously posed for photos, before finally asking if he could borrow the photographer’s camera so he could take a picture of us!
t;">When we were done, I self-consciously asked him to sign autographs for friends and colleagues who had begged me for them when they learned of my interview. Drawing from his stack of pictures, he methodically filled out unique inscriptions for each. When it came to doing one for me, he wrote: “With great appreciation for our grace-filled visit, Mister Rogers.”