Thursday, February 27, 2003

Fred, Interrupted: A Death In The Neighborhood

Fred Rogers, better known as television's "Mister Rogers," a cultural icon and kindly neighbor to generations of American children, died Thursday at the age of 74. Rogers died at his home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, after a brief battle with stomach cancer, according to a spokeswoman for his production company.

The last original "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" aired in 2001, making it PBS's longest-running program ever. >>more from CNN

John Donovan, whose interview of Rogers aired on ABC's Nightline in 2001 and will be rebroadcast tonight with additional commentary mourning Rogers' passing, had this to say:

He was a man on television who spoke gently and honestly, putting the priorities of his audience - the most vulnerable, impressionable TV viewers there are--children - in front of everything else. He didn’t do it for fame. He certainly didn’t do it for money (there are no Mister Rogers talking dolls and action figures out there in the merchandising channels). He did what he did because he believed in it. And in a world where there were certainly flashier shows on TV, and sexier, more aggressive characters vying for kids’ attention, Fred was always softspoken, forever gentle, maybe even a little shy, and yet he had an enormous impact.
[taken from an email dated 2/27/02, sent to the mailing list for Nightline viewers]

For those parents looking for answers or strategies to help process Mr. Rogers' passing with their children, PBS kids offers some helpful hints for parents in this sad time.

There's also a place on the PBS Kids website where you or your children can share your thoughts about Fred Rogers. I highly recommend it.

If there's a heaven up there, surely the good reverend's got a place in the choir all his own. Thus, in memoriam, for this loss and for the loss of our childhood it represents, my favorite Mr. Rogers song:

There Are Many Ways

There are many ways to say I love you.
There are many ways to say I care about you.
Many ways, many ways,
Many ways to say I love you.

There's the singing ways to say I love you.
There's the singing something someone really likes to hear.
The singing way, the singing way,
The singing way to say I love you.

Cleaning up a room can say I love you.
Hanging up a coat before you're asked to.
Drawing special pictures for the holidays
And making plays.

You'll find many ways to say I love you.
You'll find many ways to understand what love is.
Many ways, many ways,
Many ways to say I love you.

Singing, cleaning, drawing, being understanding,
Love you.

We love you too, Mr. Rogers.

The neighborhood just won't be the same without you.

[UPDATE 2/27/02 at 8:14 pm: From an interesting interview found at Newsweek, aka MSNBC; originally published October 6, 2000:

Newsweek: What advice would you give parents about the Internet?

Fred Rogers: The Internet, television, whatever happens to come into the home, the greatest thing parents can do is to offer their children a tradition that they’re comfortable with themselves. Ultimately, kids want to know that they belong. If they sense that their parents really feel strongly about something-I’m talking about young children-they will often embrace it because they want to belong. When the time comes for them to thumb their nose at everything, then they’ll have a brick wall that is their family’s tradition that they can knock up against during adolescence.]

posted by boyhowdy | 3:46 PM |

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