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The children's television icon was born in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, in 1928. Some of you may better know the town of Latrobe, situated 40 miles east of Pittsburgh, as the home of another American staple, Rolling Rock Beer, but it was from Latrobe that Fred Rogers emerged to become one of (if not the) most notable children's entertainers of all time. After studying music composition in college - a background which would come into play with the development of his "Neighborhood" program - Rogers worked as a puppeteer for the WQED program "The Children's Corner." Eventually Rogers would take his music skills, along with a host of the characters from "The Children's Corner," across the border to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporatoin, which began airing "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" in 1963, the same year that Rogers was ordained as a Presbyterian minister. Rogers' service as a man of the cloth is little known but perhaps bears some mentioning in light of the urban legends surrounding him (seedy legends paint Rogers as everything from a convicted child molester who was introduced to children's television through court-mandated community service obligations to a Navy Seal sniper during the Vietnam War).
Four years after his career began with the CBC, Rogers was pulling on his slippers back in the United States at Pittsburgh's WQED where, a year later, PBS took notice and co-opted the show for good. Between it's inception in Canada and it's final season the program ran for 37 years, the last original episode airing in 2001, making it PBS's longest-running program ever.
An extremely practical man (his slipper routine came about as a result of having to scurry across the set quietly in stocking feet between scenes), Rogers was known to friends and colleagues as the kind, loveable Mister Rogers both on and off the set, with an overwhelming reputation as a decent, respectful human being genuinely interested in the development of children. While other celebrities were turning up in supermarket tabloids for child pornography, murder and drugs, Fred Rogers continued on with his wholesome daily routine, entertaining millions. In addition to his work on "Neighborhood," Rogers was also a noted author, penning classic titles such as Moving, Fighting, Going to the Doctor, and Going to the Potty to help a nation of dim-witted American housewives and absentee fathers raise their children. When honored in 1993 for his 25 years on the air with the Public Broadcast System, Rogers emphasized his advocacy for children in his acceptance speech.
According to his official website, Fred Rogers is survived by his wife Joanne, their two sons and two grandsons. Family Communications, the parent company of "Neighborhood," has recommended that anyone who wishes to share messages, pictures or drawings with the cast and staff of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood or with the Rogers family may send them to their office:
Mister Rogers' Neighborhood
4802 Fifth Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213 SEE ALSO: www.misterrogers.org
Eric J Herboth
Eric J. Herboth is the founder, publisher and Managing Editor of LAS magazine. He is a magazine editor, freelance writer, bike mechanic, commercial pilot, graphic designer, International Scout enthusiast and giver of the benefit of the doubt. He currently lives in rural central Germany with his two best friends, dog Awahni and cat Scout.
See other articles by Eric J Herboth.
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