Joanne Rogers, the piano-playing widow of Mister Rogers who tended to her iconic husband's legacy, carrying on his message of kindness, died Thursday in Pittsburgh. She was 92.
David Newell, a friend of the Rogers family, said she died at home on Thursday morning.
Fred Rogers died of stomach cancer in 2003. Decked in cozy sweaters, the gentle, slow-talking entertainer brought his familiar children's show "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," into homes across America. The program ran for more than three decades. © Jason MerrittJoanne Rogers attends a special screening of
Joanne Rogers attends a special screening of "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" (Jason Merritt/)
Fred married Joanne in 1952, and they remained together until his death at 74.
Newell, who played Mr. McFeely, the delivery man on the show, said that Fred and Joanne shared a hearty sense of humor. He remembered her for her warmth.
"She was a lovely woman," he told the Daily News. "They were truly genuine people."
Sara Joanne Byrd grew up in Florida. As a pianist, she released two albums of classic music with Jeannine Morrison, another piano playe.
She appeared as a restaurant patron in "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood," the 2019 film starring Tom Hanks in the role of Mr. Rogers.
In a statement published on social media, the nonprofit Fred Rogers Productions described her as "a brilliant and accomplished musician, a wonderful advocate for the arts, and a dear friend."
"We extend our heartfelt condolences to Joanne's family and the thousands of people who had the privilege of knowing and loving her," the statement said.
In October, ahead of the presidential election, Joe Biden said he had spoken recently with Joanne Rogers and shared an image of the two talking over a video call.
"It was a great conversation," Biden tweeted. "Friendship, empathy, kindness, and compassion - I think we could all learn a thing or two from her and her husband's example."