(RNS) — Joanne Rogers, the widow of the star of the children’s program Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, died at the age of 92 on Thursday (Jan. 14).
“Fred Rogers Productions is deeply saddened by the passing of Joanne Rogers,” the organization, whose board she chaired after the death of Fred Rogers in 2003, announced Thursday on Twitter.
“Joanne was a brilliant and accomplished musician, a wonderful advocate for the arts, and a dear friend to everyone in our organization. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Joanne’s family and the thousands of people who had the privilege of knowing and loving her.”
The “partner of Fred Rogers for more than 50 years” remained interested in helping organizations in Pittsburgh — where the popular long-running program was produced — as recently as late last year.
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She joined celebrities such as Tom Hanks and Billy Porter on an honorary fundraising team to aid in the rebuilding of the Tree of Life Synagogue. The synagogue was the site in 2018 of an anti-Semitic massacre in which 11 Jews were killed.
“When you get to be 92, there’s not much you can do,” Rogers, a longtime resident of Pittsburgh, told Religion News Service in November. “I explained that to the rabbi. And he said, ‘Joanne, we just want your heart in it.’ And I said, ‘Great. It’s there.’”
In 2019, with the release of the movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, starring Hanks as Mr. Rogers, she spoke of how she and her husband shared a love for music and churchgoing traditions. The two attended Pittsburgh’s Sixth Avenue Presbyterian Church, and her husband was ordained by the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1963.
“I had a lot of two-piano literature, and so, when Fred and I would have a chance, we’d sit down and sometimes I’d make him play the other part,” she told RNS, “so that I could practice a little, and he would do that. Had a good time at two pianos.”