Celebrity

Mister Rogers' Widow Reveals New Details About Their Marriage, Private Life

Lynn Johnson

For 51 years, Mr. Fred and Mrs. Joanne Rogers lived a life full of love and bliss.

When Fred passed away at the age of 74 in 2003, the public began to mourn a man who influenced the world through love and kindness.

According to Joanne, the beloved children's television host was the same compassionate man he had depicted himself to be on screen, solely based on the unbreakable love they shared.

At 90 years old, Joanne is still quick as a whip and excitedly promoted the documentary about her late husband, titled Won't You Be My Neighbor. The film already has a 95% score on Rotten Tomatoes, and is expected to be a major hit with several generations of fans.

In an interview with Today to promote the film, Joanne opened up about the old-fashioned way her husband decided to pop the question after he had moved away from Florida to New York.

"He wrote me a letter," she recalled. "My last year at Florida State, he wrote me a letter proposing marriage."

Along with being a kindhearted man both on-and-off screen, he shared a special love with Joanne, who was also the mother of his two sons, John and James.

She revealed that the iconic TV personality was obsessed with the number 143.

When discussing her husband's fixation with the number, Joanne shared the digits were a way Fred would tell her he loved her.

"He really wanted to remain at 143 [pounds] all of his life -- all of his adult life, I should say," she said. "Especially after he started swimming; he swam every day."  

"He was very pleased when he would get out of swimming, go and get on the scale: 143. One was I, 4 was L-O-V-E, 3 was Y-O-U. He had enough love to go around," Joanne continued.

She also added Fred was unlike the other men she knew, and it was his thoughtful soul that won her over, adding he always wore his heart on his sleeve.

"In his young days, he was lively and full of fun," she noted. "But he talked about his feelings, and I could talk about my feelings to him and the things that bothered us, the things that we loved."

"You can't build a friendship without doing that," Joanne said. "And don't you have to have a friendship to fall back on in your married life? We had it for 50 years. That was nice."

Joanne recounted Fred's last days before he succumbed to stomach cancer in 2003. She said that although he was in immense pain, he wanted to make sure his family would be okay without him.

"There was a feeling of real relief when I could say to him, 'You know, we're going to be OK. We're going to be all right," she said then. "The boys will be fine, and I'm going to try to be fine.' So when he went, I could feel he went at peace and even with joy. I really feel he went with joy."

Joanne also explained her beloved husband didn't shy away from tackling tough issues with his young viewers.

She reminded us that in the 1970s African Americans were treated poorly in society, with many people ostracizing their black neighbors. With this in mind, Joanne said her husband went out of his way to showcase the importance of acceptance and inclusivity.  

So, he invited François Clemmons, who played the role of Officer Clemmons, the friendly neighborhood policeman to dip his feet into his kiddie pool.

"At that time in history, white people didn't want African Americans in their swimming pools," Joanne shared. "And so they were pouring acid and all kinds of bad things in to keep them out. Fred knew about that. This was having to do with that," adding that he even offered to share his towel.

"It's a very basic Christian [thing to do] as well," Joanne said.

For more heartwarming stories on Mr. Rogers, check these delightful reads:

[H/T: toofab, Today]

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