PITTSBURGH — Joanne Rogers was a lot extra than simply Fred Rogers’ adoring spouse.
The 2 married in 1952, and he or she remained by his aspect till his dying in 2003. Although her husband’s fame skyrocketed because of the success of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” Mrs. Rogers additionally was capable of carve out a profitable area of interest of her personal as an expert pianist, instructor and advocate of decency and kindness in Pittsburgh and past.
“Joanne Rogers was considered one of a form,” stated Invoice Isler, who lives in Squirrel Hill and is president emeritus of Fred Rogers Productions. “She was an incredible human being. She endeared herself to everyone.”
Rogers died Thursday on the age of 92. Fred Rogers Productions confirmed her passing.
“Fred Rogers Productions is deeply saddened by the passing of Joanne Rogers,” the group stated in a press release to the Pittsburgh Publish-Gazette. “The loving accomplice of Fred Rogers for greater than 50 years, she continued their shared dedication to supporting youngsters and households after his dying as chair of the board of Fred Rogers Productions.
“Joanne was a superb and completed musician, a beautiful advocate for the humanities and an expensive buddy to everybody in our group. We lengthen our heartfelt condolences to Joanne’s household and the 1000’s of people that had the privilege of understanding and loving her.”
Remembrances poured in instantly following the information of her dying, together with from Pittsburgh Mayor Invoice Peduto.
“By means of her grace, humor and down-to-earth demeanor, Joanne Rogers personified what we love concerning the Metropolis of Pittsburgh,” he stated in a press release. “Because the accomplice of Fred Rogers for a half-century, she helped champion his good works to a world viewers, and remained dedicated to his imaginative and prescient and to this metropolis after his passing.
“She was at all times there after we wanted her. I and numerous others, from each stroll of life, have been humbled to name her a buddy.”
Allegheny County Govt Wealthy Fitzgerald stated in a press release about Mrs. Rogers’ dying that “it’s a unhappy day in our neighborhood,” and he gave his “deepest sympathies to her household and pals on this nice loss.”
Those that knew her nicely additionally remembered her fondly, together with Barbara Vancheri, a former Publish-Gazette film critic and buddy of Mrs. Rogers since 2003.
“She was only a delight,” Vancheri stated. “Joanne had a beautiful chuckle and was only a very heat particular person. She was simply precisely how you’ll need her to be.”
Joanne Rogers was born Sara Joanne Byrd on March 9, 1928, in Jacksonville, Florida, the daughter of Wyatt Adolphus Byrd and Ebra V. Edwards Byrd.
She attended Rollins School in Winter Park, Florida, the place she studied classical piano with Ernst von Dohnanyi. That is additionally the place she met Fred Rogers whereas incomes a bachelor of music diploma in piano efficiency.
“Fred was at Dartmouth,” stated Isler. “He was speaking to the brand new head of the music division about what he needed to do. He stated, ‘You need to go to Rollins School …’
“Joanne was one of many music college students, and he or she picked him up on the practice station and confirmed him round Rollins.”
Joanne Rogers has a grasp’s diploma in music from Florida State College and was an completed live performance pianist who toured professionally with Jeannine R. Morrison, a lifelong buddy whom she met in faculty, because the Rogers-Morrison Piano Duo. The pair additionally recorded two studio albums collectively.
“That is the one factor about her that stands out, and her love of music,” stated David Newell, who performed Mr. McFeely on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” “She did not take herself that severely. She was only a good sport and a beautiful, great girl. Very heat, might speak to anyone. She had her personal life and profession, too.”
James R. Okanak, Rogers’ second cousin, who runs the McFeely-Rogers Basis, was at all times struck by her contagious chuckle that might make everybody at household gatherings want they have been sitting on the similar desk she was. Her talent on the piano additionally by no means ceased to amaze him.
“I’ve recognized Joanne all my life,” he stated. “She was good. She remembered folks’s names. She had large expertise together with her piano enjoying.
“When she and Jeannine R. Morrison had their Rogers-Morrison duo, not solely did they make good music, that they had a beautiful time collectively. That was mirrored in how they performed, the way wherein they performed.”
Along with her profession in music, Rogers additionally served as a instructor, each at Chatham School’s Preparatory College and as a music teacher at Carlow School within the Nineteen Seventies.
She was her husband’s doting companion as he rose to fame because the star of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” She remained lively in preserving his legacy and the values of kindness and respect for all he championed after he died at age 74 as a consequence of abdomen most cancers.
“Fred used to say that if it wasn’t for Joanne, there can be no neighborhood,” Isler stated. “That is as a result of Fred was writing and producing and he or she was the one who took care of the boys. She was at all times there for him.”
Moreover her formal schooling, she additionally collected honorary levels from Seton Hill College, Duquesne College and Saint Vincent School. She served on the board of Rollins School — her alma mater — Fred Rogers Productions and the Fred Rogers Middle for Early Studying and Kids’s Media at Saint Vincent School.
“We’re deeply saddened by the passing of Joanne Rogers,” Saint Vincent School stated in a press release. “Her love and unwavering help for her husband, Fred, and his legacy, her accomplishments as a classically educated live performance pianist and her dedication to spreading kindness and pleasure has left a exceptional influence in our neighborhood and our world.”
Ken Gormley, Duquesne College’s president, issued the same assertion: “Joanne Rogers was a glowing gentle in Pittsburgh. She was an incurably joyous, optimistic presence in her husband, Fred’s, life and his regular inspiration. Joanne’s spirit touched each a part of this metropolis she referred to as dwelling. … She will probably be a everlasting a part of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, and, for these of us who knew and liked her, she is going to at all times stay in our hearts.”
Maxwell King, former high government on the Heinz Endowments and Pittsburgh Basis and creator of the e book “The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers” stated, “Peggy and I are so unhappy that Joanne is gone. She has been such a beautiful buddy — so type and considerate, clever and proficient, witty and charming. It was at all times laborious to consider that somebody may very well be as splendidly good and splendidly enjoyable as Joanne was. She had nice expertise as a pianist and nice character as an individual. We are going to miss her terribly, as will so very many individuals.”
“Joanne Rogers was a light-weight to our group and we lengthen our honest condolences and prayers to all who mourn her passing,” stated Dr. Jeffrey Myers, rabbi hazzan of Tree of Life. “We have been proud to welcome Joanne to serve on our Honorary Marketing campaign Cupboard and know that the Tree of Life household is best due to her involvement and help. Could her reminiscence, and that of her pricey husband Fred, at all times function an inspiration and blessing.”
Rogers is survived by her sons, James Byrd Rogers and John Frederick Rogers, and three grandchildren.
Invoice Schackner, Marylynne Pitz and Nick Trombola contributed.
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