By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated May 05, 2003 07:42 AM
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The neighborhood swelled to about 2,000 friends, celebrities and strangers in Pittsburgh Saturday, at a public memorial for the beloved star of TV’s “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” Fred Rogers, 74, who died Feb. 27 of stomach cancer.

As reported by the Associated Press, John Rogers, son of the TV pioneer, said that his father defined Ralph Waldo Emerson’s determination of success: “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children … to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.”

Composer and violinist Itzhak Perlman, in Pittsburgh (Rogers’s hometown) for a scheduled concert performance, learned of the memorial at the last minute and volunteered to perform a Bach piece as a tribute to the soft-spoken TV giant, says the news service.

“Fred Rogers played a very integral part in our household while our five children were growing up,” said Perlman, 58.

Similar sentiments just seemed to flow at the memorial.

Rogers “personified friendship to a generation of children,” said Teresa Heinz, the wife of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and a board member of Family Communications Inc., producer of “Mister Rogers’s Neighborhood.”

“He was able to look past the differences that so often are all we can see in life. He found, instead, what we all had in common: the need to feel special,” Heinz said.