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Fred Rogers died on Feb. 27, 2003

By Diana Pearl
February 28, 2019 09:48 AM
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The world lost Mister Rogers‘ — known off screen as Fred Rogers — 16 years ago. The television icon may have died on Feb. 27, 2003, but his legacy for heartwarming and tear-inducing moments on television lives on. Take a look back at a handful of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood scenes sure to make you shed a tear (or two).

1. His sweet interaction with a child in a wheelchair.
In this video, Mister Rogers talks to 5-year-old Jeff Erlanger, one of his neighbors who uses an electric wheelchair, about his life and health. The pair eventually sings “It’s You I Like” to one another. And if that doesn’t make you burst into tears, maybe this fun fact will: Decades later, Erlanger was the one to introduce Mister Rogers during his TV Hall of Fame induction in 1999.

2. Mister Rogers worries about the impact of violence on children.
Following the death of Bobby Kennedy, Mister Rogers took to the television to voice his concerns about the levels of violence that children were seeing in the world and in the media. “I plead for your protection and support for your young children,” Mister Rogers says to the camera, addressing parents at home. “There is just so much that a very young child can take without it being overwhelming.”

3. He puts death in perspective.
Telling the story of the death of his dog, Mitzy, Mister Rogers is the best grief counselor you’ve ever seen. “Sometimes people get sad and they really do feel bad,” sings the world’s kindest neighbor. “But the very same people who are sad sometimes are the very same people who are glad sometimes. It’s funny but it’s true. It’s the same isn’t it for me, isn’t it the same for you?”

4. He tries to erase the stigma surrounding divorce.
As divorce became more and more common in America, Mister Rogers tackled the topic over a week of shows, and made sure children knew that their parents’ divorce was never their fault. “I know a little girl and a little boy whose mother and father got a divorce, and those children cried and cried,” Mister Rogers says in an episode. “You know why? One reason was because they thought it was all their fault. But of course it wasn’t their fault. Things like weddings and having babies and buying houses and cars and getting divorces are all grown-up things.”

5. He sings. (A lot.)
When Mister Rogers sings, he sings feel-good tunes sure to be a smile on your face, like this one: “When You Like Someone.”

6. He tells us we all have special talents.
You might not have ever taken a moment to reflect on just how much you’ve grown and learned over the years if it wasn’t for the wisdom of Mister Rogers.

7. He reminds us how important self-respect is.
If there’s anyone who will constantly tell you how important it is to love yourself, it’s Mister Rogers. (And of course, he’ll sing it, too.)

BONUS: This epic Twitter thread.
Writer Anthony Breznican recounts his chance encounter with Mister Rogers, who helped him process the death of his grandfather, while heading down to the lobby after working on his college newspaper. And in doing so, provided us with further proof that Mister Rogers was as great and kind of a person when the cameras stopped rolling as he was on television.

“I got into the elevator to go down to the lobby and the doors open, and standing there is Mister Rogers himself!” Breznican recalled to PBS NewsHour in 2017, after his tweet went viral. “I turned around and said, ‘Look, I just want to tell you how much you mean to me.’ He didn’t say, ‘Thank you’ or ‘I appreciate that’. He said, ‘Oh, did you grow up as one of my television neighbors?’ Just the way he said it was so sweet. He opened his arms and said, ‘It’s great to see you neighbor.’ He sat down and said, ‘Would you like to tell me what it was that’s upsetting you?’ … and I did. And it helped so much to have someone to talk to. It wasn’t just a persona he put on for the program. The program grafted itself onto his personality, his real soul, his real heart.”