The Legacy of Joanne Rogers

By Diego Caceres, Staff Writer

Joanne Rogers, pianist and wife of Fred Rogers, passed away at the age of 92 on January 14th. Throughout her life, she thrived in her love of music and supported her husband in his work, carrying on his legacy while carving out one for her own.


Mrs. Rogers, born in 1928, learned to love piano when she was five. She was first introduced to the piano when she visited her neighbor across the street. From there, she went on to take lessons and eventually get to the point where she attended Rollins College on a scholarship through playing the piano.


At Rollins College, she met Fred Rogers. He was looking to be a music major so they would bond over their love for music. Eventually, Mr. Rogers had left for New York, but Joanne had kept in touch with him through letters. Fred ended up proposing to her through a letter, and they got married in 1952.


Mr. Rogers went on to host his show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood from 1968 to 2001 while Joanne taught music at Carlow College. She said she liked to teach beginners; they “started with nothing.”


Jeannine Morrison, a friend she had met at Rollins College, played with Rogers as a duo at concerts when they had graduated college. When Mrs. Rogers moved to Pittsburgh after getting married, they stopped playing together until they would reunite years later. They recorded albums together, and Joanne even made an appearance in an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.


When Fred died of stomach cancer in 2003, she stopped playing the piano because of her grief, though she ultimately overcame it because of concert commitments. After his death, she became the principal chair of Family Communications, Inc.: Fred’s non-profit organization founded in 1971. She also helped develop Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media, becoming an advisory board’s honorary chairperson.


Mrs. Rogers left behind a legacy of her own. After the death of Mr. Rogers, she had to fill in for him at many events. She realized that it was vital for her to be herself instead of trying to replace her husband.


She went on to heavily promote the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? and was a part of the writing process for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.


Mrs. Rogers passed away in Pittsburgh, where she grew up. She supported her husband in his endeavors, but because of her, his impact continued to live on through her.