Chicago Reader Reporter Shares His “Mister Rogers & Me” Story

February 14th, 2012

Last week, Chicago Reader reporter Mike Sula wrote a great blurb prior to our “Mister Rogers & Me” Gene Siskel Center premiere.

He described the film simply and succinctly as “A road trip in which the video maker asks media types, activists, and religious figures (Tim Russert, Linda Ellerbee, Davy Rothbart) how Rogers’s message of simplicity, self love, and neighborliness inspired their own work and worldview.”

“As someone who grew up watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and then met Fred Rogers in adulthood,” he wrote, “I can tell you it was a surreal, blissful, enduring experience.”

I Tweeted Mike, and then emailed him, encouraging him to share his story. On Sunday afternoon he did so in his article, “Mister Rogers Never Dies, He Just Multiplies.”

Mike was walking to a friends radio show across Schenley Park Bridge in Pittsburgh after a creative writing conference featuring Tobias Wolff (my Senior Creative Writing Seminar professor at Syracuse University!) when he noticed Mister Rogers just a few paces behind him. The conference, Mister Rogers said, was wonderful.

“So many writers, but each one has something different and special to say.”

Mike spent the balance of his radio show talking about Mister Rogers, not the conference. A few days later, a package arrived with a note.

How good it was to meet you on the bridge! It didn’t dawn on me that it would mean so much to you, but when I listened to your report I was touched that you cared as you did. As the autumn begins I thought you might like the enclosed to keep you warm—as you have warmed my heart by your enthusiastic kind words.

“He listened and it warmed his heart,” Mike writes. “And that keeps on giving.”

It does, Mike. Bravo! And thank you.

What’s your “Mister Rogers & Me” story? Tell us below in the comments, or email me Benjamin At MTVi Dot Com!

23 thoughts on “Chicago Reader Reporter Shares His “Mister Rogers & Me” Story”

  1. James A. Kramer says:

    Dear Benjamin:

    My “Mister Rogers and Me” story sort of begins when a close friend who has rented a room from us, and lived with us for over 25 years had video tape of all of the episodes of “The Simpsons”, the longest running show on Fox. So I decided to choose to make video tapes of “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” – the longest running show on PBS. I did not realize how much my life would be changed for the better in my attitude toward my work and how I do it, and in changes to my worldview. I have a college degree from one of our church’s colleges, Calvin College,
    in Grand Rapids, MI. I did a major in theology, and a minor in philosophy, and have been a missionary in
    my career, and have worked for the Feeding America Food Bank Network, and still do food donation work as a volunteer. Fred Rogers religious worldview and his personal religious life and thought behind what he was doing in his work with children and families on television has just captivated my life and thinking. I now wear “the cardigan and the tie”, and try to look at my world like Fred Rogers did.

  2. John Weber says:

    I will never ever forget meeting Fred Rogers. I was producing talk radio in Philadelphia and we had scheduled him to come in-studio to promote a book he had written. During a newsbreak, I had asked him to autograph a picture for my two kids. He asked their names and personalized the pics – but he added to the pics “through the courtesy of your father,” telling me that it’s very important that that remember where these pictures came from, from YOU, their father. I have never forgotten that, and he was right., My kids (grown-up now) look at those pics and that is the most memorable thing about them – “through the courtesy of your father”. I have never met someone so genuine in my life, and the world is a little bit less bright without him, even all these years later…

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  • Benjamin Wagner first met “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” creator and star, Fred Rogers, at Rogers’ summer home on Nantucket, Massachusetts. His mother rented the cottage next door, so Mister Rogers really was his neighbor. On the afternoon of their first meeting, “America’s Favorite Neighbor” asked the young journalist about his job as an MTV News producer.  Wagner felt exposed and a tiny-bit embarrassed, a PBS mind in a jump-cut, sound-bit MTV world. Mister Rogers said warml ...
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