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Who Is Fred Rogers Wife? New Details On Joanne Rogers And The Mr. Rogers Documentary On HBO

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Who Is Mr. Rogers Wife? New Details On Joanne Rogers And The Mister Rogers Documentary On HBO

The 2018 "Won't You Be My Neighbor" popular documentary on Fred Rogers, otherwise known as the beloved Mr. Rogers came to HBO this weekend. According to MediaPost, the film by Morgan Neville was a box office hit about the life story of Mr. Rogers. Along with clips and interviews from Rogers while he was alive, the documentary is the only project to heavily involved his immediate family, including his wife, Sara Joanne Rogers,  as well as his two sons and his sister. 

Joanne Rogers, 90, was a big part of Fred Rogers' life and success in the television industry. And with the new documentary on HBO, many people are wondering, who is Joanne Rogers? 

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1. They met while in college. 

Joanne Rogers was born Sara Joanne Rogers in 1928. She met Fred Rogers while they were both studying at Rollins College, in Florida.  She said he "instantly caught her eye." 

“He was different,” she told Jimmy Fallon during an appearance on his show. “In his young days, he was lively and full of fun 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.”

“And don’t you have to have a friendship to fall back on through your married life?” she added. “And we had it for 50 years, so that was nice.”

2. She's a pianist. 

After Rollins, Joanne Rogers went on to Florida State where she continued to study and play the piano. Fred Rogers, who had earned a degree in music composition in 1951, moved to New York after graduation to work as a producer's assistant at the infamous 30 Rock.

But even despite the distance, he couldn't get Joanne off his mind. 

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

She said yes, and on June 9, 1952, they were married. The two went on to have two sons, John and James. 

Joanne, a professional concert duo-pianist played concerts with her friend Jeannine Morrison up until arthritis in her hands "got mad."

3. They had the cutest inside jokes. 

Joanne Rogers revealed to Jimmy Fallon that she and her husband had a special meaning behind the number 143. 

“It takes one letter to say ‘I’ and four letters to say ‘love’ and three letters to say ‘you,'” Fred even said once. “One hundred and forty-three.”

Joanne Rogers even said that Fred Rogers weighed exactly 143 pounds for most of his adult life. She said he was happy when he stepped on the scale and saw that number pop up. 

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4. She's still adjusting to life without Fred.  

An article in the Los Angeles Times reported that Joanne Rogers still loves classical music, reading and visits the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Even though it's been over a decade since his death, she still misses Fred, who died of stomach cancer in 2003. 

“Part of me just went with him,” she said. “But I find that he’s with me so much of the time. I can get to him very quickly.”

She's helped to preserve her husband's legacy by serving in leadership positions within the Fred Rogers Company, his nonprofit organization, as well as the Fred M. Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children's Media.

5. She loves texting and emojis. 

Nicolas Ma, a longtime family friend of the Rogers' and the director of "Won't You Be My Neighbor," said that he spoke with Joanne Rogers about the project for over two years before she ever sat down for an interview. And a lot of those conversations were via text. 

“Oh, she’s an avid texter,” Ma said. “Not only does she text, but she loves emojis. Especially the party hat one. Any time there’s good news about the film, she sends a heart emoji with an exclamation point. That’s kind of a great way to describe Joanne as a person: A heart with an exclamation point.”

6. Joanne and Fred never really got mad at each other. 

In the film, Joanne Rogers said she and Fred Rogers bonded over the fact that they both grew up in homes where they didn't feel comfortable expressing their emotions. That's one of the reasons why his notable puppet, Daniel the Tiger, often served as a way for him to express his "inner child." 

“We never got mad at each other that much — that we could express well,” she said. “We just got quiet. Both of us handled it that way, and that’s not the best way. It’s good to yell sometimes. But Fred was a very sensitive person, and tears were available to him. I used to say, ‘You’re my liberated man, and I think it’s just wonderful.’”

7. She was bothered by the rumors he was gay. 

The film made sure to include the rumors that Fred Rogers was gay, which many people close to him were sure to deny. Still, it bothered Joanne, who described their marriage as a "very, very good friendship."

"I’ve heard people say that men and women can’t be friends and lovers. We really were friends, and I know we were lovers.”

“I think Fred had that feminine sensibility,” she said. “All the men I’ve chosen to have as friends over the years seem to have that, and I think it’s a wonderful quality if you can find that in the person you’re going to live with.”

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Emily Blackwood is a writer and editor living in California. She covers all things news, pop culture, and true crime.