Joanne Rogers, an acclaimed and prolific pianist and the widow to Fred Rogers, better known as beloved children’s TV host Mister Rogers, has died. She was 92.
News of Rogers’ death was shared by Fred Rogers Productions on Thursday. No cause of death was given.
“Fred Rogers Productions is deeply saddened by the passing of Joanne Rogers. The loving partner of Fred Rogers for more than 50 years, she continued their shared commitment to supporting children and families after his death as chair of the board of Fred Rogers Productions. Joanne was a brilliant and accomplished musician, a wonderful advocate for the arts, and a dear friend to everyone in our organization. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Joanne’s family and the thousands of people who had the privilege of knowing and loving her,” the production company said in a tweet.
Rogers was married to Fred for over 50 years prior to his death from stomach cancer in 2003. She appeared heavily in the documentary film “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” and over the years she had become a spokesperson for Mister Rogers’ brand of kindness and quiet respect for others.
“Fred relied on Joanne,” Bill Isler, former president of Fred Rogers Productions, told the Los Angeles Times in 2019. “He would often say that if it wasn’t for Sara Joanne Byrd Rogers, the ‘Neighborhood’ probably would have never happened.”
While Fred Rogers was an impressive piano player and brought his music to “Mister Rogers Neighborhood,” Joanne Rogers was the prolific pianist dating back to taking musical training when she was 5. She recorded two albums with her performing partner Jeannine Morrison, and the two continued to perform publicly until 2008. A scene in the biopic “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” in which Tom Hanks portrayed Fred Rogers shows Joanne (as played by Maryann Plunkett) upstaging her husband.
Rogers was also a fan of Hanks’ performance as Fred in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” telling her hometown Pittsburgh CBS station KDKA that, “I loved it. I think Tom is a genius, almost. I want to give credit — Tom Hanks has gotten lots and lots of good press and he deserves every bit of it.”
Rogers is survived by her two sons with Fred, Jim and John.
(1/2) Fred Rogers Productions is deeply saddened by the passing of Joanne Rogers. The loving partner of Fred Rogers for more than 50 years, she continued their shared commitment to supporting children and families after his death as chair of the board of Fred Rogers Productions. pic.twitter.com/ZgrxtAHHW8
— Fred Rogers Productions (@FredRogersPro) January 14, 2021