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Joanne Rogers, an accomplished concert pianist and wife of iconic kids TV host Fred Rogers who provided an invaluable assist to the filmmakers behind the 2019 feature A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, died Thursday. She was 92.
Rogers’ death was reported Thursday by Fred Rogers Productions.
“The loving partner of Fred Rogers for more than 50 years, she continued their shared commitment to supporting children and families after his death as chair of the board of Fred Rogers Productions,” the organization said in a statement.
“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 to the thousands of people who had the privilege of knowing and loving her.”
She and Fred were married from 1952 until his death in 2003. He hosted Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood on PBS stations from 1968 to 2001.
For A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, directed by Marielle Heller and starring Tom Hanks, Rogers gave the filmmakers access to her husband’s archives and granted them the rights to his likeness and legacy.
Maryann Plunkett played her in the movie, but Joanne did appear in the film — as a patron at a Chinese restaurant that was a favorite of the couple.
She said her husband was a huge fan of the man who portrayed her husband. “I was like, ‘Are you kidding?’ when they told me about Tom Hanks,” she said before the Pittsburgh premiere of the film. “Tom Hanks was Fred’s favorite actor. And I didn’t know until recently they were sixth cousins.”
Born on March 9, 1928, in Jacksonville, Florida, Joanne Byrd met Fred Rogers at Rollins College, where both would receive bachelor degrees in music from the school, and she went on to earn her master’s in music from Florida State University.
Survivors include their sons, James and John, and three grandchildren.
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