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Fred McFeely Rogers was an American educator, Presbyterian minister, songwriter, and television host. He was born in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, a town located 40 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. He was born to James and Nancy Rogers; he spent many years as an only child. Early in his life he spent much of his free time with his maternal grandfather, Fred McFeely, who would later move to Florida, and had an interest in music. He would often sing along as his mother would play the piano, and at the age of five, he began to play the piano as well. Scholastically, he went on to garner 40 more honorary degrees throughout his life. Rogers was red-green color blind, swam every morning, and neither smoked nor drank. Rogers was the host of the television show Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, in production from 1968 to 2001. At its peak, in 1985, 8 percent of households tuned in to the show. In 1969, Rogers appeared before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Communications. His goal was to support funding for PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, in response to significant proposed cuts. In about six minutes of testimony, Rogers spoke of the need for social and emotional education that public television provided. He passionately argued that alternative television programming like his Neighborhood helped encourage children to become happy and productive citizens, sometimes opposing less positive messages in media and in popular culture. He even recited the lyrics to one of his songs. The chairman of the subcommittee, John O. Pastore, was not previously familiar with Rogers' work, and was sometimes described as gruff and impatient. However, he reported that the testimony had given him goosebumps, and declared, "I think it's wonderful. Looks like you just earned the $20 million." The subsequent congressional appropriation, for 1971, increased PBS funding from $9 million to $22 million. Rogers was diagnosed with stomach cancer in December 2002 and underwent surgery on January 6, 2003. As he was dying, Rogers chose to be at home with his family. His passing came on the morning of February 27, 2003 at his home with his wife by his side, not long after his retirement and less than a month before he would have turned 75. His death was such a significant event in Pittsburgh that the edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published the next day devoted the entire front page to coverage of Rogers' death. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]
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