DEAD: ON THIS DATE
Fred Rogers (aged 74)
Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood
Fred McFeely Rogers (March 20, 1928 – February 27, 2003) was an American television personality, musician, puppeteer, writer, producer, and Presbyterian minister. He was known as the creator, composer, producer, head writer, showrunner and host of the preschool television series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (1968–2001). The show featured Rogers’s kind, neighborly persona, which nurtured his connection to the audience. Rogers would end each program by telling his viewers, “You’ve made this day a special day, by just your being you. There’s no person in the whole world like you; and I like you just the way you are.”
DEATH: Rogers was diagnosed with stomach cancer in December 2002. He underwent surgery on January 6, 2003, which was unsuccessful. A week earlier, he had 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. His death was such a significant event in Pittsburgh that most of the front page of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazettepublished the next day and an entire section of the paper devoted its coverage to him. The Reverend William P. Barker presided over a public memorial in Pittsburgh. More than 2,700 people attended the memorial 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 Eric Carle, the author-illustrator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.Speakers remembered Rogers’s 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 interred at Unity Cemetery in Latrobe.