RIP Joanne Rogers: She kept the ‘Mr. Rogers’ brand alive after Fred’s death
Yesterday, the widow of Mister Rogers, Joanne Rogers, died at ninety-two years old. She was an accomplished concert pianist. She met Fred Rogers at Rollins College where they studied music. Joanne went on to get a masters degree at Florida State University.
After the death of Fred Rogers, Joanne Rogers continued being a crucial part of Mister Rogers’s legacy. She has kept Mister Rogers’s memory alive which is why she’s become such a beloved figure for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood fans.
Mister Rogers shared an important message with the youth that transcended his life. It’s safe to say his show affected many people’s lives for the better by encouraging people to be kinder to one another. Here’s how Joanne Rogers kept her husband’s spirit alive after his death. Hopefully, Rogers’s work will survive them both for a long time.
Keeping Mister Rogers alive
Joanne & Fred Rogers married back in 1952 before Fred started hosting Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Mister Rogers hosted the beloved children’s show for several years before he passed away in 2003. To keep his legacy alive, Joanne continued her husband’s work. It was never Joanne’s intention to substitute him as a host, but she wasn’t going to let his life’s work die with him.
Bill Isler, president & CEO of Fred Rogers’s company, commented: “I think she is incredibly comfortable with it. They were married for over 50 years and raised two sons. Fred relied on Joanne. He would often say that if it wasn’t for Sara Joanne Byrd Rogers, the ‘Neighborhood’ probably would have never happened,” after Mister Rogers’s death.
Although Joanne’s participation in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood wasn’t as central as her husband’s, she definitely played an important role in the show’s success. Mister Rogers was an important figure for kids as he would tackle tough topics in his show in a gentle but honest way, and even after the show, Joanne made sure Fred’s teachings wouldn’t be forgotten.
Won’t You be My Neighbor?
The documentary Won’t You be My Neighbor? was directed by Morgan Neville. After its release in 2019, the documentary received great reviews.
Many have wondered how different was Mister Rogers the character from Fred Rogers in real life. Won’t You be My Neighbor? finally settles that question. As it turns out, Mister Rogers wasn’t much different from the person behind the kids’ show.
Through a mixture of nostalgia & kindness, the documentary makes fans relive Mister Rogers’s teachings, now from a different perspective. The documentary is even better because of Joanne Rogers’s testimonies & anecdotes about Fred Rogers. Together with interviews with Joanne & Fred’s sons, the documentary made everyone feel like they were back in Rogers’s neighborhood.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
After the documentary, Marielle Heller created the biopic A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood starring Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers. Joanne Rogers has expressed how Tom Hanks was Fred’s favorite actor, so it was just perfect that he would be portraying Mister Rogers in a movie about him.
Joanne was present in the filming of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and even lent Tom Hanks some ties which belonged to Fred Rogers. She did voice her opinions about how one of the wigs wasn’t good and how she wouldn’t say “buster” as her character was scripted to say. Besides that, she agreed with the way Fred & her were depicted in the film.
Just like Joanne Rogers, Pittsburgh has taken Mister Rogers’s legacy very seriously. This was obvious for every staff member of the film since locals would approach them to ask to do good by Fred Rogers. Now it’s time we thank Joanne Rogers as well for keeping Mister Rogers’s legacy alive and allowing for his message to spread for years after his death.