March 20th is Won't You Be My Neighbor? Day.  A day for celebrating the life of one of the greatest Pittsburghers (and humans writ large) ever, Fred Rogers.  (Fred McFeely Rogers, if you were wondering, which I'm sure you were.  So that's where that comes from.)

So remember that time when a beloved TV personality turned out to be a huge disappointment (or worse, a creepy, disgusting criminal) in real life?  Yeah, I do too.  I bring this up because Fred Rogers, by all accounts, was the diametric opposite of that.  His personality on the set of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood (which aired new episodes for 33 years from 1968 - 2001) was open, loving, deeply empathetic, wise, and a million other positive adjectives.  In his personal life, he is said to have been exactly the same.  Once, when asked which of his puppet characters from the Neighborhood of Make Believe resembled him most, he answered that it was the shy but immensely kind Daniel Striped Tiger.  (Daniel was also the first puppet to be used by Mr. Rogers on TV.)

I am not at all alone in having been positively influenced by Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood as a child.  PBS was pretty much the only station that I watched from age 5 to age 14.  I haven't really thought about those shows in a while, but as I write this, I'm really wanting to watch Mr. Rogers again.  Of all the PBS shows that I miss: Arthur, Reading Rainbow, Wishbone, Zoom, Sesame Street, etc., Mr. Rogers is the one I most want my eventual offspring to experience.  His unaffected love and empathy were unforgettable and impossible to ignore.

It says enough about him, I think, that in the time I've spent researching and writing this post, I've felt and am feeling a touch of grief for all of us who lost Mr. Rogers in 2003.  Mourning a man that I didn't ever know in person.  I won't presume to know how Mr. Rogers would have liked to be remembered, but I hope, if he were here, he'd be gratified by the positive impact he had on my life and on those of countless others.

Thanks, Fred.

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