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Fred and Joanne Rogers Had a Romantic Love Story

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By Laura Kelly

For the past two years, we've had quite the comeback from Mister Rogers. Last year, we had the Mister Rogers documentary, 'Won't You Be My Neighbor?' and in 2019, we had a cinematic version of Mister Rogers, 'A Beautiful Day in The Neighborhood,' starring Tom Hanks. We even learned that Fred Rogers' widow, Joanne, was a consultant for the cinematic film and helped Tom Hanks get into her husband's character. However, most people don't know just how romantic The Rogers' love story really is.

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Fred and Joanne Rogers |

Fred Rogers had initially been attending Dartmouth College but decided to transfer to Rollins College to study music. Joanne Rogers, née Byrd was already in attendance at Rollins, also studying music. Before officially transferring, Fred wanted to visit Rollins in person to make sure he was making the right choice. Joanne was among the group of students that came to welcome him and show him the campus. Fred did transfer, so we can assume that Joanne's presence was the deciding factor in that move.

They Did Drift Apart

Fred and Joanne Rogers | People

The two had a very close relationship in college, having bonded over their mutual love of music. But like many people, they did drift apart after graduation. Fred moved to New York to work for NBC, and Joanne went to Florida State University to pursue her Master's degree. They did keep up with each other by corresponding through letters, but they were far more casual than they were before. Apparently, when Fred Rogers' mother heard that Joanne had been set up on a date at grad school, she told her son that he needed to get moving!

Fred Proposed to Joanne By Letter

Gettyimages | Jeff Swensen

After getting the message from his mother about his possible romantic rival (a music conductor, no less!), Fred knew he had to act quickly. So, he proposed to Joanne in a letter. As soon as Joanne got the letter, she ditched the conductor and found a payphone to excitedly tell Fred that she accepted. The two were married in the Summer of 1952.

“You have to have a friendship to fall back on throughout your married life… and we had it for 50 years, so that was nice," Joanne said years later.

They Had A Secret Love Code

Gettyimages | Jason Merritt

In a recent interview on 'The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,' Joanne Rogers revealed that Fred had a special way of saying "I love you" through code. It was through the number 143. Joanne explained that he would tell her that because those were the exact numbers in each word of the phrase. Fred even kept his weight consistently at 143 lbs his entire life.

At the end of the interview, Jimmy Fallon presented Joanne with a piece of paper with the number 243. He told her it meant, "We love you."

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