Joanne Rogers: On her husband Fred Rogers’ commitment to prayer, church, children

Religion News Service | 11/15/2019 | Staff
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(RNS) — At “91 and a half,” Joanne Rogers remains a devoted advocate for the legacy of her late husband, the iconic star of the long-running children’s show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

Fred Rogers’ widow shared churchgoing traditions and a love for music with her husband, whose story is depicted in the new movie, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”

Film - Nov - Stars - Tom - Hanks

The film, set to release Nov. 22, stars Tom Hanks and depicts the friendship that developed between Fred Rogers and Tom Junod, a journalist who profiled the TV luminary in Esquire magazine.

Joanne Rogers continues to attend Pittsburgh’s Sixth Avenue Presbyterian Church, the congregation where she worshipped with her husband, who was ordained by the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1963 and died in 2003. The former longtime professional pianist recalls that beyond making TV his mission, her husband — who majored in music before attending seminary — was “a very fine pianist” who shared his talent with her at home.

Lot - Literature - Fred - Chance - Part

“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 said, “so that I could practice a little, and he would do that. Had a good time at two pianos.”

Director Marielle Heller, left, and Tom Hanks on the set of TriStar Pictures’ “A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood.” Photo by Lacey Terrell ©2019 CTMG, Inc. All rights reserved.

Interview - Length - Clarity

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You have said that your husband used to say the space between the television and the person watching it was “holy ground.” Did you see his show as a form of ministry?

Command - Ordination - Evangelist - Work

Absolutely. That’s a yes. It was what he was ordained to do. That was the command from the ordination, to be ordained as an evangelist and continue his work...
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