We eagerly anticipated viewing “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” every day as children. The way Mister Rogers would don a sweater and sing the same song had a soothing and hypnotic quality to it. With our own children, we now enjoy the current adaptation of the Land of Make-Believe that we always adored, “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.”
Watching “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” taught us valuable lessons, even though we weren’t aware of it at the time. Fred Rogers had a delicate way of handling challenging subject matter. He had little trouble explaining difficult topics to children, like death, bigotry, and 9-11.
Fred Rogers was married to Joanne for 51 years before his passing in 2003 at the age of 74. Over the course of their marriage, they had a lifetime of love and friendship, and it turns out that Fred was just as kindly and sympathetic off-camera as he appeared to be.
Stopping by the Today show to talk about, Joanne, now 90 years old, among other things, how Fred proposed to her after he moved away from Florida to New York, has helped promote the documentary.
“He wrote me a letter. My last year at Florida State, he wrote me a letter proposing marriage,” as Joanne recalled, given their distance, his approach was unique but necessary.
“He really wanted to remain at 143 [pounds] all of his life — all of his adult life, I should say. Especially after he started swimming; he swam every day,” Joanne shared, as she explained the secret meaning behind those numbers, Fred’s preoccupation with the number 143 was another intriguing fact about him.
“He was very pleased when he would get out of swimming, go and get on the scale: 143. One was I, 4 was L-O-V-E, 3 was Y-O-U. He had enough love to go around,” Joanne continued.
He was “lively and full of fun,” according to Joanne, who also provided some insight into his earlier years. Saying, “he talked about his feelings, and I could talk about my feelings to him and the things that bothered us, the things that we loved,” Joanne also noted that he was very open.
“You can’t build a friendship without doing that. And don’t you have to have a friendship to fall back on in your married life? We had it for 50 years. That was nice,” she continued.
After a struggle with stomach cancer, Fred’s widow also discussed the last moments of his life, saying:
“There was a feeling of real relief when I could say to him, ‘You know, we’re going to be OK. We’re going to be all right.” She noted, “The boys will be fine, and I’m going to try to be fine.’ So when he went, I could feel he went at peace and even with joy. I really feel he went with joy.”
In one episode, Joanne also talked about how Officer Clemmons was urged to dip his feet into his kiddie pool because Fred wanted to emphasize the value of inclusivity and acceptance to his viewers.
“At that time in history, white people didn’t want African Americans in their swimming pools. And so they were pouring acid and all kinds of bad things in to keep them out. Fred knew about that. This was having to do with that,”
Watch the video below for more details: