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Fred Rogers
Fred Rogers, 1994 (cropped).jpg
Fred Rogers at the Emmy Awards, 1994
Born
Fred McFeely Rogers

(1928-03-20)March 20, 1928
Latrobe, Pennsylvania, United States
Died February 27, 2003(2003-02-27) (aged 74)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Cause of death Stomach cancer
Other names Mister Rogers
Mr. Rogers
Alma mater Dartmouth College,
Rollins College
Occupation Television personality, puppeteer, educator, minister, composer, songwriter, author
Years active 1951–2001
Spouse(s) Sara Joanne Byrd (1952–2003; his death)
Children James
John
Signature
FredRogersSignature.svg

Fred McFeely Rogers (March 20, 1928 – February 27, 2003) was an American television personality, puppeteer, educator, Presbyterian minister, composer, songwriter, author, and activist. Rogers was known for creating, hosting, and composing the theme music for the educational preschool television series Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. He hosted the show from 1968 until his retirement in 2001.

Rogers was born in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. Originally he studied to be a minister, but Rogers did not like the way television was for children. He made an effort to change this when he began to write for and perform on local Pittsburgh-area shows dedicated to youth. WQED created his own show in 1968 and it was shown nationwide by Eastern Educational Television Network. Over the career of thirty years on television, Rogers became an icon of American children's entertainment and education. He was also known for his activism of various public causes.

Rogers received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, some forty honorary degrees, and a Peabody Award. He was added into the Television Hall of Fame, was recognized by two Congressional resolutions, and was ranked No. 35 among TV Guide's Fifty Greatest TV Stars of All Time. Several buildings and artworks in Pennsylvania are dedicated to his memory, and the Smithsonian Institution displays one of his trademark sweaters as a "Treasure of American History".

Early life

Rogers was born in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, 40 miles (65 km) southeast of Pittsburgh. His parents were James and Nancy Rogers. He had one sister, Elaine. Early in life he spent much of his free time with his maternal grandfather, Fred McFeely, who liked music. He would often sing along as his mother would play the piano and he himself began playing at five.

Rogers graduated from Latrobe High School (1946). He studied at Dartmouth College from 1946 through 1948, then transferred to Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, where he earned a B.A. in Music Composition in 1951. In 1963, Rogers graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and was ordained a minister in the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A..

Television career

Rogers found children's television programming of his day demeaning. For example, he saw people throwing pies at each other. He thought this was not nice. So he created Mister Rogers' Neighborhood for preschoolers.

His programme featured a cast of hand puppets, live actors (such as the postman), and live guests. They explored wholesome, meaningful values in skits and quiet talk. Mister Rogers' Neighborhood began airing in 1968 and ran for 895 episodes; the last set of new episodes was taped in December 2000 and began airing in August 2001. At its peak, in 1985, 8% of U.S households tuned into the show. Rogers also performed much of the programme's music.

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood won four Emmy awards, and Rogers himself was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1997 Daytime Emmys.

Personal life

At Rollins, he met Sara Joanne Byrd, an Oakland, Florida native. They married on June 9, 1952. They had two sons, James (b. 1959) and John (b. 1961).

Rogers had an apartment in New York City and a summer home on Nantucket island in Massachusetts. Rogers was red–green color blind, swam every morning, and neither smoked nor drank. He was a vegetarian on ethical grounds, stating "I don't want to eat anything that has a mother." Despite rumors, he never served in the military.

Death

Rogers was diagnosed with stomach cancer in December 2002, not long after his retirement. He had surgery on January 6, 2003, which was unsuccessful. A week earlier, he served as grand marshal of the Tournament of Roses Parade, with Art Linkletter and Bill Cosby.

Rogers died on the morning of February 27, 2003, at his home with his wife by his side, less than a month before he would have turned 75.

More than 2,700 people went to his memorial service at Heinz Hall, including former Good Morning America host David Hartman, Teresa Heinz Kerry, philanthropist Elsie Hillman, PBS President Pat Mitchell, Arthur creator Marc Brown, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar author-illustrator Eric Carle. Speakers remembered Rogers' love of children, devotion to his religion, enthusiasm for music, and quirks. Teresa Heinz Kerry said of Rogers, "He never condescended, just invited us into his conversation. He spoke to us as the people we were, not as the people others wished we were." Rogers is buried at Unity Cemetery in Latrobe.

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