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Letter to Joanne Rogers

*Last week I set out to write a letter to Mrs. Rogers. This morning I acted on that impulse and finished writing it tonight, not aware that she died on Wednesday January 14. I am tearfully 'sending' this letter through my blog, hoping somewhere Fred and Joanne can feel my love.

Dear Joanne Rogers,

Recently I watched an interview with you and it renewed in me a longing to connect with you. I learned that you are a wonderful pianist, a skill my mom shared with you. She died in 2006 and I have fond memories of resting under her grand piano as she played. During this pandemic year I’ve begun practicing piano again and feel connected with memories of my mom. Music has remained an integral thread in the tapestry of my life. I’m so glad to hear you are playing piano and hope it is a connection you feel with Fred, though he is also gone.

I was born in 1970 and when I wasn’t under my mom’s piano, I sometimes watched TV. ‘Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood’ was a staple in my limited intake of television. Mr. Rogers was a friend to my little self. I often felt (and still feel) besieged by external stimuli and Mr. Rogers helped me feel understood. Of course at the time, I didn’t know that. I just knew I loved being in his television presence.

As an adult I’ve learned more about all the work Mr. Rogers (and you) did to promote public broadcasting and quality content for children. I felt the world darken the day Fred Rogers died. This is not hyperbole or metaphorical. I remember hearing the news and feeling a deep sadness for everyone who wouldn’t get to grow up knowing someone as helpful, kind and authentic as Mr. Rogers.

During the last 7 years I have experienced a darkness in my soul and just now am doing work that I know to be helpful, kind and authentic. I am an artist and a teacher. Part of my work is creating videos of my puppet Pearl (modeled after my real, live dog by my friend) for children at First United Congregational Church in Corvallis, Oregon. I have looked to Mr. Rogers as one of my mentors (as so many others have). If I can be a little bit more like him each day, my life will be well-lived.

In the interview with you that I watched, you were asked the question: “Did you and Fred ever have arguments or fights?” You answered, not really. Then you went on to talk about your experience of discussing car repair with the mechanic and coming home frustrated; wanting Fred to join you in the frustration. Instead he said, “Well you never know what that man went through before talking with you.” This small and powerful story has helped me this very week as I encounter different people in my neighborhood.

Thank you for your continued presence in the world; for shining your light while you are here. I hope to age as gracefully as you.

With Sincere Love,

Jaqui Lyn Eicher

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