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Mr. Rogers: Friend to Children and Adults

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• Part 2: The End of the Show

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PBS Kids: Mister Rogers' Neighborhood

Part 1: A Great Loss

Children everywhere lost a friend late last week. Mr. Rogers has died.

Rogers, whose first name was Fred, died after a struggle with stomach cancer. He was 74.

He started his show at Pittsburgh's WQED television station in 1966. Two years later, his show was on nationwide. Day after day, he would put on his trademark sweater, sing songs he wrote himself about neighbors and friendliness and kindness, entertain a variety of guests, and interact with a familiar handful of puppets and other characters. Speaking in a quiet and friendly voice, he was a friend to children all across the country.

Among his stable of characters were X the Owl, King Friday XIII (a character so named to take away the fear of Friday thte 13th), and Daniel Striped Tiger. Rogers did most of the puppet work himself. Many of these characters were the product of an earlier WQED show called "The Children's Corner," which he produced for several years in the 1950s.

Through the years, Rogers dealt with topics ranging from anger and anxiety to death and divorce. He taught children how to share and even why they shouldn't fear taking a bath by assuring them that they would never go down the drain. Such even-handedness in dealing with topics large and small, important and everyday, made him a favorite of children long after they "outgrew" the program.

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He focused on everyday parts of the real world as well, taking his viewers on tours of crayon factories and food factories, for instance discovering how graham crackers are made, step by step. He also had celebrity guests, including cellist Yo-Yo Ma and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis.

The show often had no sound for long periods of time (like when Mr. Rogers would look into his fish tank just to watch the fish swim). Unlike today's "more modern" shows for kids, Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood focused on one thing at a time, offered simple yet effective means of communication, and featured as the fastest thing on the show the friendly trolley, which took kids and adults alike into the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

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