The life of the ever-optimistic children’s TV personality Mr. Rogers is the focus of a new documentary entitled Won’t You Be My Neighbor? There’s been a resurgence in interest in his program, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and the man behind it since then. His widow, on the other hand, has some more intriguing details about his life that fans may not have known.
Don’t be concerned, he hasn’t done anything to sully his shining reputation or illustrious history.
Fred and Joanne Rogers were married for 51 years until he died in 2003, aged 74. Over the course of their marriage, they had a lifetime of love and friendship, which his passing has revealed to be the same kind and caring individual that he was on TV.
Joanne, now 90 years old, has assisted in the film’s promotion by stopping by the Today show to discuss how her late husband Fred proposed to her after he moved away from Florida to New York.
Their distance, however, required a unique approach from John: “He wrote me a letter. My last year at Florida State, he wrote me a letter proposing marriage.” How could she refuse?
Another fascinating element about Fred was his preoccupation with the number 143, as revealed by Joanne. She said: “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 added: “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 also spoke about his earlier days, saying that “he was lively and full of fun,” but he was also very open “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.”
She added, “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.”
His widow, also discussed his last days before he died of stomach cancer, stating that “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.”
“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,” she said.
In addition, Joanne stated that Fred wanted to bring awareness to his viewers and the importance of acceptance and inclusivity to his stories. On one episode, Officer Clemmons was instructed to immerse his feet in the kid’s pool by Fred. She said: “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.”