“Joanne was a brilliant and accomplished musician, a wonderful advocate for the arts, and a dear friend to everyone in our organization,” Fred Rogers Productions said.
Joanne Rogers, widow of the famed children’s television host Fred Rogers, is dead at age 92, the nonprofit her late husband founded announced Thursday.
The date and the cause of death were not reported.
Joanne Rogers was married to Fred Rogers for more than 50 years until his death in 2003 from stomach cancer. She was the chair emerita of Fred Rogers Productions afterward, the company said Thursday.
“Joanne was a brilliant and accomplished musician, a wonderful advocate for the arts, and a dear friend to everyone in our organization,” Fred Rogers Productions said. “We extend our heartfelt condolences to Joanne’s family and the thousands of people who had the privilege of knowing and loving her.”
The couple met while Fred Rogers was attending Rollins College in Florida and stayed in touch after he moved to New York City for a producer’s assistant job. Joanne Rogers told NBC News’ “Today” show in 2018 that her husband proposed in a letter while she was in her last year at Florida State University.
They had two children, James and John.
Joanne Rogers became a guardian of her husband’s legacy as the beloved host of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” eventually allowing his life to be memorialized in the 2018 documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”
She told the Los Angeles Times that her biggest request of the filmmakers was that her husband not come across as a saint but as an ordinary man who made his mark through the simplicity of kindness.
“He’s out there now as somebody who’s somehow way above all the rest of us,” Joanne Rogers said. “People invariably say, ‘Well, I can’t do that, but I sure do admire him. I would love to do it.’ Well, you can do it. I’m convinced there are lots of Fred Rogerses out there.”
Tom Hanks was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actor for his portrayal of Fred Rogers in the 2019 biopic “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”
The city of Pittsburgh, where “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” was produced and where Fred Rogers lived for the rest of his life, tweeted Thursday that Joanne Rogers was “one of Pittsburgh’s greatest neighbors.”
“Joanne & Fred forever changed our city.”
After Fred Rogers’ death in February 2003, his widow told Pittsburgh’s “NightTalk” that he had been in pain for months. Joanne Rogers said she told her husband when it was finally time to let go.
“So 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 told the show. “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.”
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