Thanking Mister Rogers


Mister Rogers gave empathy, encouragement and understanding in his interview

By Jackie Saulmon Ramirez | October 27, 2012

In the winter of 2002 I drove to an appointment and having a few extra minutes decided to finish listening to an interview with Mr. Fred Rogers on NPR’s ‘Fresh Air’ program. He told about his upbringing, work as an educator and the popular television show. He also studied music and became an ordained minister.

Besides starring in the popular TV show, Mister Rogers was an educator, musician and an ordained minister.

Mister Rogers also talked at length about his childhood in Pennsylvania and how he was bullied by other children. He said the bullying was probably because he was very small and skinny. He didn’t sound as though he harbored any bitterness toward those children and was only trying to explain the reasons he might have been targeted. I was so engrossed that I was almost late. All I could think about during my appointment was little Fred Rogers, how small he was and how scared he must have been. I felt as if I was seeing Mister Rogers for the first time and the mother in me was compelled to reach out to him.

With my appointment over, I came straight home and looked up “Mister Rogers address” on Google. I began my letter to him by thanking him for being so candid in his NPR interview. Then I told him about my daughter Chelsey who suffered from bullies her whole life and at the time was still facing them in college. I just wanted to hug him like I had hugged my helpless daughter when she was home. I mailed the letter the next day and forgot about it. After all, Mister Rogers was a big TV personality and probably has a staff to read his fan letters, right?

My daughter Chelsey treasures her Mister Rogers photograph for his awe-inspiring kindness.

Wrong! A couple of weeks later I received a correspondence from Mister Rogers that blew me away. Not only did he send me a heartfelt reply but an encouraging letter to go with an autographed letter for Chelsey. I tried not to but I just sat there and cried. The signatures were as genuine as the man; I sat him on the same imaginary pedestal as John Glenn and Jimmy Stewart that day. I sent my daughter an e-mail saying I had a surprise for her and took it up to her over the weekend.

Mister Rogers passed away a couple of months later from stomach cancer at age seventy-five. My daughter and I grieved as did most of America— we had lost a national treasure. A short interview and our letters made it much deeper and more personal. Mister Rogers had been much more than a sweater-wearing neighbor and we were impressed by his sincerity and bona fide kindness.

Some people write to famous people as a hobby to ask for photos or autographs. I only ever wrote to one other celebrity because I considered him to be a quality person who lived a clean, unblemished life— that was Jimmy Stewart. I wished him a happy birthday and thanked him for his service and war record— I still have his reply tucked away. To me, there are very few people who match my values enough to warrant a letter, maybe John Glenn… in time.

“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”   ~Mister Fred Rogers, 3/20/1928—2/27/2003

Copyright © 2014 Jackie Saulmon Ramirez. All Rights Reserved.

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About Jackie Saulmon Ramirez

Jackie has volunteered for more than twenty years for children and family issues. Currently she writes for parents in the "Reminder" and "Parent Rap" Facebook page. If you are interested in receiving the "Reminder," send her a message.
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4 Responses to Thanking Mister Rogers

  1. Donnie says:

    I’m about to do a piece on Mr. Rogers but thought it prudent to read up on what other people had to say about him first, I’m happy I did. I may not be a the most wholesome person out there, I employ a vulgar vernacular from time to time and may discuss less than ‘neighborly’ subject matter but I’ve learned that as long as I sincerely try to understand and care for others, always trying to do no harm, then I can still be a good person. I learned that from him. Happy to hear of another good deed he has done for someone else, that’s just awesome that he wrote you back.

    Like

    • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

      Thank you for your comment Donnie. I couldn’t get Mister Rogers out of my head that day, he was so calm and so sincere during the interview. I was truly touched and never expected to hear anything from him. That he wrote back at all was a surprise then he was so tender with my daughter. His words were beyond soothing. When we hears he passed away we both cried. His loss marked an era in children’s television. Thank you again for your comment Donnie.
      Jackie

      Like

  2. Pingback: Mister Rogers: A National Treasure | Soup to Nuts

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