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Mister Rogers and Us: Tim Menees and Rob Rogers remember the man and his neighborhood

Friday, February 28, 2003

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Rob Rogers, Post-Gazette

"Is your dad Mister Rogers?" That was the question kids in my school would ask. At first I told the truth. "No, just the same name." But that got boring and after a while I began saying, "Yes." Kids would stare at me in disbelief, "Nuh-uh! You mean that guy on TV is really your dad?"

I would nod and they would say, "Cool!"

I liked it -- not only because it was fun to fool the other kids, but because I secretly wished he really were my dad. Didn't all kids?

His messages were simple: "You are special." "I like you just the way you are." "Please, won't you be my neighbor?"

To those of us who tuned in every day, they became the building blocks of self-esteem. He taught us tolerance and acceptance before we could even say the words.

I drew this cartoon back in 1994. Mr. Rogers called me up and asked for the original. I told him it was the least I could do after all he had done for me.

-- Rob Rogers, Post-Gazette cartoonist

Tim Menees, Post-Gazette

Way back in November 1980, on the day Pittsburgh got hit with a paralyzing and unexpected afternoon blizzard, my family and I, at the invitation of David "Mr. McFeely" Newell, turned up at WQED to watch Fred Rogers tape his show. My son, then 6, and I would appear as extras -- shoppers at Negri's Music Store (as in Joe "Handyman" Negri). We even had speaking parts:

"Hello, Tim. Hello, Timmy."

"Hi, Mister Rogers."

Shortly after we arrived at the station, Mr. Rogers walked over and introduced himself to us. He asked our daughter Becky, then 4, how she was. Becky was dumbstruck. This was, after all, like meeting God.

She blurted out, "Mister Rogers, I have a new dress!"

To which he said, as she nodded at him silently and wide-eyed, "It's lovely, Becky. But it's what's inside you that's important."

-- Tim Menees, Post-Gazette cartoonist

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