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Issue One: Fred Rogers, 1928-2003

Sunday, March 09, 2003

His lessons live on

We have lost a great friend and mentor. But while Fred Rogers is no longer with us, the impact he has made in the lives of children and families everywhere will be everlasting.

Fred Rogers was a nationally acclaimed educator in the field of child development. He was deeply committed to encouraging the healthy emotional growth of children and their families -- a passion shared by all of us at United Way.

Mr. Rogers magically taught children the importance of kindness and compassion as he helped them learn. But children weren't his only students. He taught parents to be more nurturing, encouraging and supportive. And he imparted important lessons to child-care educators and professionals about effective communications and learning.

In his lifetime, Fred Rogers became a legend. As they grieve the loss of an extraordinary man, I hope that his family and friends will find comfort in knowing that his lessons will live on.

WILLIAM J. MEYER
President and Chief Financial Officer
United Way of Allegheny County
Downtown


Goodbye, Fred

I read with both joy and sadness Tim Reeves' piece in the March 2 Forum section, "Fred Rogers: the Greatness of Good." I knew Tim as that boy in Sixth Presbyterian Church and now as a man of goodness and greatness himself, and I was privileged, with my family, to know Fred Rogers as a friend in that same setting. My son Chris, now a young man, calls Fred his "guardian angel."

One day around 1969, I went to retrieve my son David at preschool. I saw my friend Joan, who was retrieving her son also. I wanted to stop and chat with Joan (sometimes the only adult I saw all day), but she put her hand in the air in a "stop" signal. She said: "No, I have to hurry home. King Friday is going to marry Sara Saturday."

Some things are meant to be accepted. Off we went to our homes. I often wondered who insisted on watching "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood." Was it the child or the parent? Both, I think.

I also know that we are better people for having known Fred, in whatever form that was.

Goodbye, Fred -- and thank you for those very special days.

ANN RODGERS
Plum


The personal touch

This is another example of why Fred Rogers was a super person:

In 1993, I requested a photograph of Fred Rogers for a grandchild of mine. I was told it would be sent. Time passed and the picture did not arrive, so I called to follow up. The reason for the delay, I was told, was that Mr. Rogers was out of town -- and it was his desire to sign the picture personally! The signed picture arrived shortly.

I was floored. Here was a busy man who could have signed one picture and then have numerous copies made so that his secretary could pull one out of the file and mail it. No sirree, Fred Rogers signed it. What a great guy!

FRANK ZIGON
Bethel Park


Make it our motto

In the letter of Feb. 28, Tanveer K. Hoque suggests that we set aside a day to celebrate Mr. Rogers ("Fred Rogers Was Humanity at Its Best"). Might I propose that we go even further?

Let's incorporate "Won't you be my neighbor?" into our city's motto, if not officially, at least in our hearts. Let's help Mr. Rogers' legacy to live on, not with our words, but in our actions. Kneel to speak to the child, reach out to the elderly widow, talk to the waiter and the grocery store clerk.

Let's show the world, and each other, that we really learned the lessons Mr. Rogers taught us, and let's make every day "a beautiful day in the neighborhood."

LINDA DANEKER FERRISS
Upper St. Clair


Strength of character

It seems ironic that God chose to take Fred Rogers, a man committed to bringing a positive message to television, at the end of a "sweeps month" marred with reality shows and interviews with the crazed and convicted. As I watched WQED's tribute to Mr. Rogers, I was struck by how strong a man he really was. I was not thinking of physical strength, but strength of character.

When the night was over, I was not asking myself "Could I 'survive' the Amazon?" or "Am I hot?" But there was one question I could not shake: "Would I have the strength to fill that red cardigan?"

GREG FUNKA
Moon


Who will carry on?

It's not such a beautiful day in our neighborhood. Fred Rogers left us to reside in The Neighborhood. Although I am not from the Pittsburgh area and I hadn't watched his show since my oldest son was a child some time ago, I will miss him. Mr. Rogers was a powerful and gentle spirit who helped in the formation of many children; our world will be far worse off without him.

In today's crude, lewd and coarse pop culture, he was a safe harbor, a comfortable sweater and a reassuring voice for many parents and their children. My prayer is that there is another gentle, genuine and spiritual soul who can carry on the work of Fred Rogers. "I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you . . ."

DOUGLAS FORDE SIMMS
Tampa, Fla.


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