Squirrel Hill was Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood

by Zach Brendza

His iconic PBS program started with the tying of his Chuck Taylor sneakers and a simple question: “Won’t you be my neighbor?”

Fred Rogers passed away on Feb. 27, 2003, at age 74 in his Squirrel Hill home, leaving behind his high top sneakers, cardigan sweater and a legacy of one of the longest running television programs in history, with 895 episodes.

Before becoming Mister Rogers, Fred was an avid musician, graduating from Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., with a bachelor’s degree in composition. Over the course of his life, he wrote 200 songs and over a dozen operas, according to the Fred Rogers Company website. Rogers was born in Latrobe, but raised his family in Squirrel Hill, with his two children and wife Joanne, a concert pianist he met at Rollins.

Photo credit: Mental Floss Magazine

Photo credit: Mental Floss Magazine

A trip home during his senior year of college shaped his career path. He was awed by his family’s newly acquired television set, and immediately decided he want to be a part of television’s future, according to Biography.com.

Fred Rogers started his “neighborhood” in 1963 and it debuted in 1966. Fred voiced and manipulated all the show’s characters and wore his trademark Chuck Taylors so he could run behind the set from the organ to the puppet area without being heard, according to pbskids.org. He attended a special camp when he was a teen to learn to be a ventriloquist.

Besides Mister Rogers, Fred Rogers played many roles.

He was a Presbyterian minister. At his ordination, he was a given the charge of serving children and families through television, according to pbskids.org.

He was a strict vegetarian, eating fruit and yogurt every day for lunch.

He was a pilot, having taken flying lessons in high school.

He was a golfer, taking lessons with Arnold Palmer from Palmer’s father in Latrobe.

He was a father, a husband.And he was everyone’s neighbor.