Fred Rogers Historical Marker/Mr. Fred Rogers Statue/James Hillis Rogers Park
Backstory and Context
Born and raised in Latrobe, Fred McFeely Rogers was the creator, composer, host, and puppeteer of the award winning TV program Mister Rogers Neighborhood (1968-2001). The program, produced at WQED in Pittsburgh, emphasized kindness, compassion, and learning. An ordained minister, Fred Rogers received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his outstanding approach to children's media and his legacy of nurturing and inspiring generations of children. (Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission 2016)
In memory of Fred's father, James Hillis Rogers, sits a beautiful park located on the corner of Jefferson and 200 Main Street in the heart of downtown Latrobe. James Hillis Rogers and his wife Nancy McFeely Rogers were known nationwide for being the parents of TV program creator, Fred Rogers, however in their hometown community of Latrobe they were often recognized for being major contributors to many community projects. Because of their work as community advocates, the Chapel at Latrobe Area Hospital, Rogers-McFeely Memorial Swimming Pool and the James Hillis Rogers Memorial Park were added to the city of Latrobe.
In the James Hillis Rogers Memorial Park sits the Fred Rogers historical marker as well as the life size bronze statue of Mister Rogers. The statue was created by sculptor and artist Jon Hair from Petersburg, Florida. Rogers is sculpted smiling, seated on a bench wearing his iconic cardigan sweater and sneakers.
"Sculptor Jon Hair of St. Petersburg, Fla., said he used countless photos in deciding how to create the 300-pound work of art that took more than six months to make.
“I wanted him on the bench, so that you want to sit by him. From the street, it looks like you want to sit with him,” Hair said as he watched parents and children have pictures taken with the statue."
Hair's final product weighs about 300 pounds and took over 6 months to complete.
Comm, Joseph A. Legendary Locals of Latrobe. Arcadia Publishing, 2015.
Napsha, Joe. "Fred Rogers statue unveiled in Latrobe." Trib Live (December 3, 2016).
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission 2016