Mr. Rogers’ Wife Makes Candid Admission About Her Late Husband

Mr. Rogers

Mr. Rogers was a 30-year TV veteran who enchanted children and parents all over the world. But behind the beloved man was one very special partner — his wife, Joanne Rogers. She helped Fred Rogers be the man that he was, and recently, she spoke about their relationship in a way she’d never had before. Straight from Mrs. Rogers herself, she reveals what it was like being married to the man often labeled the kindest in the world.

Mrs. Rogers

Joanne Rogers was born in 1928 in Jacksonville, Florida. Her earliest passion was playing the piano, a talent she practiced from pretty much the moment she could walk and defined the rest of her life.

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First Meeting

In 1946, Joanne received a scholarship to nearby Rollins College for piano. This college campus would be the setting for the fateful first meeting between herself and Fred, an adorable moment that played out almost like a movie.

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Early Courtship

See, Fred Rogers transferred as a music composition major from Dartmouth, and Joanne was selected to show him around the campus. The pair hit it off right away, but not in the way you would think.

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Strong Friendship

The base for their romantic relationship was a solid friendship. “I must say, we were just good friends,” she remembered. “We didn’t do much dating, as such. We all ran around in a group.” For the time being, at least.

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Similar Childhoods

They both felt similarly stifled in their childhoods, feeling a lack of ability to express their feelings to those around them. These sentiments would be part of the inspiration for Rogers pursuing children’s entertainment.

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Went Separate Ways

Their paths would diverge, however. Joanne graduated school and went on to study music composition at Florida State University. Rogers accepted an internship at NBC that took him to New York City. Of course, they found their way back to each other.

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Letter Based Relationship

Letters were their main form of communication. From Florida to New York and back, they penned their thoughts, hopes, and dreams, and sealed them only for each other to read. In 1951, a very important letter made its way to Joanne’s mailbox.

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He Popped The Question

Fred Rogers asked Joanne to be his wife. Upon receiving the letter, she ran to a close-by payphone and gave him a resounding confirmation. By 1952, she became Joanne Rogers, and her life was going to take an incredible path.

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Collaborated On Projects

When Rogers had his first T.V. show called The Children’s Corner in 1955, it was a family affair. Joanne voiced various characters on the show, in addition to her career as a music teacher at Chatham College. By 1959, their greatest adventure was in the works.

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They Grew Their Family

Joanne gave birth to their two sons, James and John, in 1959 and 1961 respectively. The Rogers created a safe and fun-loving environment for their children at home. There was one common theme in all aspects of their lives.

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Bonded Over Music

Music was crucial to the happiness of Joanne and Fred Rogers. She remembers asking Fred, “What do people do who don’t have music?” On a boring day when there was nothing going on, Mr. Rogers could be counted on to be, well, Mr. Rogers.

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He Wasn’t Putting On A Character

Joanne said, even on his off hours, he engaged his children in the same way he did the millions of watchers. “He’d go to the piano and play and they’d march around,” she explained. “Music always put everyone in a good mood.”

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A Liberated Man

Interestingly, Rogers seems to be one of the few people who was exactly who they seemed to be. Joanne says he was sensitive and expressive. She called him her “liberated man” and delighted in his genuine nature.

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Dealing With Rumors

But even the strength of their relationship couldn’t dispel the rumors about Fred. One common belief was that Fred was secretly homosexual, accusations made ignorantly based on his kind nature. Even though she knew the truth, Joanne hated the rumor mill.

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Strong Foundation

Fifty years passed, and the Rogers shared a loving relationship built on a strong foundation of friendship. “I’ve heard people say that men and women can’t be friends and lovers. We really were friends, and I know we were lovers,” she says of her marriage.

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Shared Her Husband With The World

Joanne experienced the strange sensation of sharing her beloved husband with the world. She often marveled at the reaction he brought up in people, both children and adults alike. “They’re so cute and so warm with him,” she said of admiring fans.

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Timing Conflict

In 2002, the White House invited Rogers to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He responded that he couldn’t make it. The ceremony date was July 9th, the same day of his 50th wedding anniversary. Joanne used this anecdote to describe the kind of husband he was.

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Lived Modestly

Even though they experienced notable financial success from the television series, the couple remained entirely down to Earth, living a no-frills lifestyle. Their one indulgence was a house in Nantucket where they vacationed, furnished sparsely with a piano in the center of the space.

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Saying Goodbye

In 2002, Rogers succumbed to cancer, Joanne by his side at every moment. Much in the way they lived their lives, she offered him quiet support and comfort as he passed on. She remembers his death, recalling that “part of her went with him.”

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Maintaining His Legacy

After his death, Joanne carried the baton of maintaining her late husband’s legacy. She made appearances on his behalf, attending the dedication of his own postal stamp. She couldn’t help but think of all the stamps she placed on the early letters she sent to him.

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He Loved Love

For some, Mr. Rogers’ comforting demeanor was all they needed to feel safe and welcome. It’s no secret that he loved love. In fact, he typically weighed in at 143 pounds, which to him, signified the letters in the words “I Love You”: 1, 4, and 3! “It takes one letter to say I,” his official site said, “and four letters to say love and three letters to say you.”

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He Had A Weight Obsession

Mr. Rogers’ supreme self-discipline extended to the things most people wouldn’t even think about. For instance, he was obsessed with the idea that he should always weigh the same amount: 143 pounds. It wasn’t the easiest thing to maintain, but with the help of willpower and a scale, he weighed himself every morning.

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He Responded to Every Letter

Mister Rogers would receive fan letters by the thousands, and no matter how long it took, he always made sure to respond to each one. Mind you, this was long before the days of email, and especially direct messaging on Instagram. He had to hand write everything, but it was important to him to let people know he cared.

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He Was a Minister

It might be hard to explain to someone who has never seen the show, but something about Mister Rogers’s gentle yet assertive demeanor demanded respect. What many don’t know is that he was an ordained Presbyterian minister. We’re sure that had something to do with his stage presence!

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He Got Families Talking

Mister Rogers wasn’t just for entertainment, he also spurred a lot of conversation in family homes. “Our shows give families an opportunity for communication. If children should hear the news of war, at least they have a handle here, to assist in family communications.”

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He Made Fridays Fun

Friday the 13th is a fluke holiday that can still scare even the bravest of us. But Mister Rogers decided to reject superstition and create a puppet character called King Friday XIII. “We thought, ‘Let’s start children out thinking that Friday the 13th was a fun day,’” he said in a 1999 interview. “So we would celebrate his birthday every time a Friday the 13th came.”

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Daily Routine

Even when the cameras weren’t rolling, Mr. Rogers was a man of routine. It’s part of what kept him primed to perform well at his job, which required a 5 a.m. daily wake-up call. He’d then pray, read, write, call people on the phone, swim, and respond to mail. All before getting to work!

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He Hated Curse Words

Perhaps in keeping with his commitment to being pure and walking in the straight and narrow path, Mister Rogers had a tough time letting curse words fly. In fact, the farthest he’d ever go was saying “mercy” in response to something wild.

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He Initially Hated Television

Mister Rogers might have changed television forever, but he wasn’t a fan of it at first. “When I first saw children’s television, I thought it was perfectly horrible,” he told Pittsburgh Magazine. “And I thought there was some way of using this fabulous medium to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen.”

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He Cared About Slowing Down

For someone as quiet and casual as Mister Rogers, so much of what he saw in life was in the small details. The yellow light in the opening sequence of his show was no exception. It blended in perfectly with the scenery, but it also was a reminder to slow down and not rush.

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He Had Thoughts About Nuclear War

Even though Mister Rogers’ show was set in a provincial small-town-like setting, and made for young children to understand, the host wasn’t afraid to tackle big world issues, like nuclear weapons! “Little did I know we would be involved in a worldwide conflict now,” said Rogers to the Associated Press. And he talked about these tough topics for a genius reason.

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He Has a Day In His Honor

To commemorate the icon and his special number, Mr. Rogers’ home state of Pennsylvania declared in 2019 that May 23, the 143rd day of the year, would officially be known as “143 Day.” The goal of the holiday was to encourage people to be kind to their neighbors.

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He Took Requests

Mister Rogers didn’t only reply to fans — he took their requests very seriously, and he strove to make things more accessible to all his viewers. Have you ever wondered why he made sure to say out loud when he was feeding his fish? It was because a blind viewer once contacted him to ask for that favor!

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He Was A Perfectionist

The style of his show might have been conversational, but Mister Rogers was a stickler for formal integrity. He never ad-libbed his lines, and wanted every sequence and monologue to be delivered perfectly, no matter how many takes it took!

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He Loved Animals

Mister Rogers wasn’t just a people person — oh, no. He was loved by all members of the animal kingdom. In one episode, he even got cuddly with a gorilla several times his size! But have no fear: like everybody else, she was immediately taken with Mister Rogers, and held him close like her own child.

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Mother’s Touch

One of the most iconic features of the Mister Rogers brand was his colored and textured sweaters. He certainly had the budget for a high-fashion wardrobe, but you might be surprised to learn that it was actually his mother who lovingly knitted them all!

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He Changed Into Sneakers

At the beginning of every episode, Mister Rogers walks in, removes his dress shoes, and puts on sneakers. It’s a cozy, comfortable tradition — but it started for another reason! According to Benjamin Wagner, who directed the documentary Mister Rogers & Me, “[Mister Rogers’] trademark sneakers were born when he found them to be quieter than his dress shoes as he moved about the set.”

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He Was Assertive as Heck

When the government wanted to ban VCRs, Mister Rogers spoke to the Supreme Court and convinced them that the machines allowed people who couldn’t watch his program live to record it and then watch it at a convenient time. On top of making a good argument, he also made a big dent in the war on VCRs!

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He Was Colorblind

For all the beauty and color that his program captured, Mister Rogers himself couldn’t tell, even if he wanted to! According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Among the forgotten details about Fred Rogers is that he was so colorblind he could not distinguish between tomato soup and pea soup.”

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He Went On Sesame Street

Even in the fiercely competitive world of television, Mister Rogers refused to have enemies, opting for collaboration instead. Sesame Street was probably his biggest rival on television, but that didn’t stop him from appearing on the show in 1981. It was a subtle moment that highlighted his spirit of possibility.

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