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'A gentle soul': Fans, co-workers react to a personal loss

Friday, February 28, 2003

"George and I join all Americans in mourning the death of a most remarkable man, Fred Rogers.

Fred Rogers and Barbara Bush spent some time together at Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland to receive their 2002 Elsie Awards for public service. (John Heller, Post-Gazette)

Several generations of children, including our own, grew up with Mister Rogers, always looking forward to time spent in his neighborhood. In addition to helping children learn everything from how to tie their shoes to appreciating jazz music, he also taught his young viewers the importance of sharing, being truthful and good manners. And he stressed the importance of reading and writing, for which he'll always be one of my heroes. I was privileged to know Mister Rogers several times, and was delighted to know he was a kind and gentle soul both on and off camera. He will be greatly missed, but leaves behind a legacy of love and learning."

-- Barbara Bush, former first lady and mother of the president

"This isn't only a sad day for Pittsburgh. This was one of the truly great guys -- a really, really good person. The thing about Fred I was thinking about earlier was how consistently decent he was -- especially when I just recently lost my mother, how kind and considerate he was. He was a great, supportive, aware, conscientious person, not just for kids but for other people. ... He had a huge impact on kids and on television. He was a nice man. If it were only that at the end of the day, that would be enough. But he was a lot more than that."

-- Michael Keaton, actor and former "Mister Rogers Neighborhood" staff member

"Fred Rogers was a Pittsburgh icon and world renowned. He was one of the great people of this era."

-- Dan Rooney, president, Pittsburgh Steelers

"It was the parade, the past New Year's Day parade, as we rode those five miles, the gantlet of smiling faces waving [on] both sides of the street, and more times than I could count I heard the people yelling, 'Welcome to the neighborhood, Mister Rogers.' "

-- Bill Cosby, actor and comedian

"Fred was a hero and a mentor. [His death] comes as a huge surprise. Fred was a great soul, in my opinion. Fred had the remarkable ability to be absolutely present when he was with you. It was like you were the sole focus he had. He was absolutely constant. He was always that same open, clear, present human being. He was a great man."

-- LeVar Burton, actor and host of the PBS show "Reading Rainbow"

"I'm wearing a cardigan today in his honor and thinking about him with much respect in my heart."

-- Jamie Lee Curtis, actress

"Fred did what he knew needed to be done in his sphere of influence. He had his own kingdom."

-- Bob Keeshan, "Captain Kangaroo"

"He created a safe place for kids on TV."

-- Harry Smith, co-host, "The Early Show," CBS

"When he'd come to the studio [to be interviewed], he would end it always by hugging you, hugging members of the crew and saying, 'Think about what you're doing today' to remind everybody this isn't just a job. It's your life you're creating."

-- Diane Sawyer, co-anchor, "Good Morning, America," ABC

"He was the most thoroughly authentic human being I've ever known. This was a man who had great iron in his backbone along with the gentleness, along with the whimsy. He had fortitude, staying power and the courage to say, 'I don't care what everyone else in children's programming is doing.' As near as I can tell, what made it work was his personal willpower. He had utter conviction about not only what was necessary for him to do his best work but what was in the long-term best interest of his audience."

-- Scott Simon, National Public Radio host

"Mr. Rogers was an unbelievable human being. He had millions of fans that loved him, of which I was one. Even though it does not seem possible, the people who worked for him loved him more."

-- Wynton Marsalis, trumpeter

"Mister Rogers once said he was glad there was public broadcasting. All of public broadcasting is glad there was Fred Rogers. More teacher than celebrity, Mister Rogers, by his example, taught us about goodness, honesty and dignity. For that, he was a parent's most trusted resource, and a child's most trusted friend. We will miss him."

-- Robert T. Coonrod, president and CEO, Corporation for Public Broadcasting

"His legacy will be that he made millions of children feel safe and comforted in a time when so much of the bombardment of the media is overwhelming. For everything that we all agree is bad about television and children, he was the good of it. Nothing is as bad as he was good."

-- Linda Ellerbee, host of "Nick News," Nickelodeon

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