Joanne Rogers, the wife and collaborator of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood star Fred Rogers, has passed away at the age of 92. News of Rogers' passing broke on Thursday, via a statement from Fred Rogers Productions and the McFeely-Rogers Foundation, which writes that she was "a brilliant and accomplished musician, a wonderful advocate for the arts, and a dear friend to everyone in our organization." The cause of death is currently unknown. Joanne and Fred were married for fifty years, up until Fred's passing due to stomach cancer in 2003.
(2/2) 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. pic.twitter.com/aPx9mGwhzc— Fred Rogers Productions (@FredRogersPro) January 14, 2021
Born Sara Joanne Byrd in Jacksonville, Florida in 1928, Joanne began her musical training at the age of five, ultimately earning her a scholarship to Rollins College. Joanne met Fred while attending the school, where they both were studying to earn a Bachelor of Music. An accomplished pianist, Joanne went on to earn a Master of Music from Florida State University, and performed publicly with her college classmate, Jeannine Morrison, from 1976 to 2008. Joanne and Fred married in 1952 and had two children together - James and John.
Following Fred's death in 2003, Joanne continued to promote her husband's legacy, serving as chair of the board of Fred Rogers Productions. She also served on the boards of the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony and the Board of Trustees of Rollins College. She has been honored multiple times for her work, including receiving the Pittsburgh Children's Museum's Great Friend of Children Award in 2016, and the George Romero Legacy Award at Steeltown Entertainment's 2019 Elly Awards. She also appeared in the Mr. Rogers documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor, and had an uncredited cameo as a restaurant patron in the 2019 biopic A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.
"She was always able to be Joanne Rogers as opposed to Mrs. Fred Rogers,” her son Jim Rogers said in an interview with The New York Times. “She has always been her own person.”
Our thoughts are with Rogers' family, friends, and fans at this time.