The Numerological Explanation For Mr. Rogers' Favorite Number

Photo: Courtesy of Focus Features..
You probably didn't notice it while watching Mister Rogers' Neighborhood as a child, but the program's titular star, Fred Rogers, had a very specific favorite number: 143.
He explained his affinity for it in a scene with series regular, speedy deliveryman Mr. McFeely. "This is a kind of code that we've just found out about," Rogers said. "One is 'I,' four ('L,' 'O,' 'V,' 'E'), three ('Y,' 'O,' 'U'): 'I love you.'" This was hardly the only time that 143 made an appearance on the show. Regularly donating to the Fred Rogers Center, which supports children's development and education through media, means joining the 143 Club. In a recent appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, his wife Joanne Rogers stated that Rogers supposedly went so far as to keep his weight at 143 pounds for "all his adult life." (For the record, this is a frequently cited anecdote about Rogers that is impossible to confirm, but it goes without saying that this kind of attachment to any number — no matter the reason — isn't exactly healthy.)
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Nevertheless, the number 143 (and the meaning that Rogers ascribed to it) was subtly woven into his body of work and legacy. As viewers of the show will remember, love was Rogers' overriding mission and message. It's little wonder, then, that he'd be so attached to the number that, in his mind, represented such a simple yet profound statement of love.
But that's not where the connections between Rogers and 143 end. Numerologist Felicia Bender believes he may have a more profound connection to it via his Life Path number. If you're new to the spiritual practice of numerology, someone's Life Path number is the single-digit number that results from adding (then reducing) all of the numbers that make up their birthday. It's believed to reflect a person's overriding purpose in life, not unlike their Zodiac sign.
Rogers was born on March 20, 1928, so the digits we'd add to find his Life Path number are three (since March is the third month of the year), two, zero, one, nine, two, and eight (3 + 2 + 0 + 1 + 9 + 2 + 8 = 25). Then we'd add the two digits of 25 to get down to a single digit number (2 + 5 = 7). So, Roger's Life Path number is seven, which Bender describes as a highly significant number — people with this Life Path number are often described as intuitives and spiritual seekers. Whether you believe wholeheartedly in numerology or not, we can see an interesting parallel in Rogers' very real (and strong) sense of faith: At one point he thought he'd spend his life working as a Presbyterian minister.
Bender points out that numerologists actually analyze complete phrases like "I love you," by adding up each letter's number in the order of the alphabet ("A" is 1, "B" is 2, and so on). So, if we follow this system, all of the numbers in "I love you" add up to 43 (9 + 3 + 6 + 4 + 5 + 7 + 6 + 3 = 43). And then 43 reduces down to seven ( 4 + 3 = 7). Again, call it a coincidence, but numerology is all about deriving meaning from repeated numbers and patterns. And, Bender adds, "The number seven, when used optimally, is the purveyor of wisdom — of ultimate truth."
"When someone has an affinity with or for certain numbers or certain number combinations, it is a very personal and individual experience," Bender says. It's difficult to know exactly where the real Fred Rogers and his dedication to the number 143 ended and the character of Mister Rogers and his enduring mythos began, but we know for sure that Rogers was simultaneously an educator and a lifelong learner, not to mention a man of faith — and in the world of numerology, these roles are inextricably rooted in the number seven.
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