Rumors have been circulating for years that Fred Rogers served in the military and that he got some ink to commemorate his war record. Despite the rumors, Rogers was never a sniper, Navy Seal, Green Beret, or Marine Corps drill instructor. He didn’t serve in the military at all.
Beloved TV children’s host Mr. Rogers did not have an armful of tattoos that he hid under colorful cardigans. He opted for sweaters so he’d have a comfortable appearance while interacting with children. His fashion was also heavily influenced by his mother.
Rogers was born in 1928 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. He was too young to enlist in World War II and too old for Vietnam. It was plausible for him to serve in the Korean War, but he didn’t. Instead, he launched a TV career in 1951 at the age of 23.
When working on The Children’s Corner for a public education television station in Pittsburgh, Rogers realized that his squeaky dress shoes were too noisy when he worked alongside puppets. He changed his footwear and opted for some less-formal clothing to match. After all, a suit with running shoes isn’t very stylish.
The show eventually evolved into Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, which aired from 1968 to 2001. The TV personality filmed a total of 895 episodes. Each episode started the same way—Rogers came home and sang “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” and then changed into sneakers and a zippered cardigan.
Rogers’ mother Nancy knitted every single one of the sweaters the entertainer wore on the program. His wardrobe is so iconic, that one of his red cardigans belongs to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, it’s not currently on display, a fact that disappoints many fans. One person wrote on the museum’s webpage, “I would travel the world to see that sweater,” proving that Rogers impact on people’s lives is undeniable. The good news is that one of his gold sweaters and a pair of his sneakers are available for all to see at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.
Rogers was a good son who listened to his mother, who was more than just an accomplished knitter. He once said of her advice: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
Rogers died on Feb. 27, 2003, at the age of 74 after suffering from stomach cancer. He lived a very authentic life and taught others to follow suit. “There are three ways to ultimate success,” Rogers is quoted as saying. “The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.”
By Noelle Talmon, contributor for Ripleys.com