Remembering Mr. Rogers
From 1968 to 2001, the late Fred Rogers hosted the PBS kids' show Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, produced in Pittsburgh. Rogers, famous for his cardigan sweaters and mild manner, was such a legend here that his picture appeared on billboards and posters, his opinions were sought out by local newspapers, and area baseball teams asked him to throw the first ball of the season.
Rogers would have been revered in any town, but he was especially loved in Pittsburgh, a city whose close-knit and friendly neighborhoods served as inspiration for the nurturing society at the heart of the show. Recurring characters like friendly Lady Aberlin, Handyman Negri, Mr. McFeely, and Police Officer Clemmons speak to a sense of community and small-town know-how that are as much a reality of everyday Pittsburgh as are the show's "neighborhood trolley," corner bakery, and local library.
"Pittsburgh has distinct and unique neighborhoods, and so does the show," said Rogers, who was born in 1928 in Latrobe, 30 miles east of Pittsburgh. "We've always been glad that our neighborhood has always been able to be produced on the soil of the Pittsburgh neighborhood."
The overriding concept Rogers had for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was elegant in its simplicity: "Look at the television camera and present as much love as you possibly can to a person who needs it." The approach obviously resonated—Neighborhood is the longest-running program in PBS history.
The show stopped production in 2001, but Rogers didn't hang up his cardigan. He and his regulars are on the Web, and an exhibit based on the Emmy Award-winning program is touring the country. Rogers died in February, 2003. In 2002, he received the Medal of Freedom from President Bush and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
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