Fly Soup: Missing Mr. Rogers

      Recently while driving down the interstate returning from a Bass fishing tournament in Alabama, I was listening to NPR, (National Public Radio), as I often do to put the miles behind me.         
On this day I was saddened to learn the news that Fred McFeely Rogers had passed away recently. You probably know him better as Mr. Rogers of the PBS show Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. As I drove, NPR was doing a series of  past interviews that they had on file as sort of a eulogy to him.
Like many people, I’m sure, my knowledge of Mr. Rogers to that point was limited to a casual glimpse while channel surfing and the funny skits lampooning him on Saturday Night Live. His calming and  unique style of speech, his simplistic approach of the most basic daily things was something that was easily dismissed in the adult world.
Before that day, I had never really given Mr. Rogers much thought.
    However, after a couple of hours of listening to him talk and explain the events of his life and his motivations that led him to create “The Neighborhood”,  I began to get a picture of a truly remarkable man.         
He explained that he had been very sickly as a child, and that he was often quarantined for long periods of time. He spoke of how during those long days alone, he learned to use his imagination to pass the time, and how some of his imaginary childhood friends later became inspiration for some of the characters he used to convey his messages to the children of the Neighborhood.
He also recalled the fears he had faced as a child. Mainly fears of the unknown. Fears that as an adult were easily understood, and removed, but as a young child were not so easy to understand.         
Most of us have a hard time seeing life through the eyes and mind of a four year old, not Mr. Rogers. He could easily recall how he felt at four, and speak to kids in a manner where they could easily relate.
As a young man he worked for a radio station and like most things in life, one thing led to another and he found himself hosting a children’s hour radio show. 
It was there that he found his purpose in life. He said he wanted to help young children face the uncertainties and fears of childhood that he recalled so clearly. And he wanted to make sure that those children felt that they were not facing things alone. 
    While working long days at the radio station, he would spend his lunch hour studying for the seminary, and eight years later was ordained as a Presbyterian minister. As the years rolled by, the radio show would lead to the T.V. show where he found a wider audience of children and world wide recognition for his work with young kids.           
When he was asked why his T.V. show didn’t have more of a religious tone, since he was a minister after all, Mr. Rogers replied that religion was never a factor in his shows because he would hate to think any child would feel left out or excluded because their religion was possibly different than his.
This was a man with only one life long goal…to help children. He never sold out by endorsing the latest video game or breakfast cereal.
For such a diminutive man, he was a giant among men.
As the interview closed, it was noted that he was such a powerful, positive influence for so many children. Then he was asked who was the most positive influence for him when he was a child?
He replied that it was probably his grandfather McFeely. “On Sundays my parents would take me to my grandfathers house and we would go fishing” he said. “He always told me every time when it was time to go what a special day it had been and how much he loved me, I‘ll always remember that”.

-Capt. Sandy Melvin

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