The feel-good movie of the year has one of our favorite people on the planet playing one of our favorite people of all time. If you’re in the mood for some intense feels this holiday season, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is sure to deliver those and then some, as it tells the story of Fred Rogers' relationship with a journalist who is profiling him — and stars Tom Hanks and Matthew Rhys. You might already be crying at the thought of it. And while we might know a lot about Mr. Rogers from his time on television and his extensive charitable work around the world, what a lot of us don’t know is what happened to Mr. Rogers once he left our television screens. Don’t worry — Mr. Rogers lived an incredibly full and happy life right up until his death in 2003.
Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood went off the air in 2001, after a whopping 31 seasons and over 900 episodes. At the time, Mr. Rogers was 72 and initially showed no signs of slowing down, but the decision to end the show was made anyway (the last few episodes of the series were taped in late 2000, and then aired through 2001 as a result). It was then in, 2002 that Mr. Rogers started suffering from stomach pain and was finally diagnosed with stomach cancer at the end of that year.
However, he put off receiving treatment right away as he was set to the Grand Marshal of the New Year’s Day Rose Parade. Shortly after that in January, he finally underwent treatment and had his stomach removed. Unfortunately, he never fully recovered and passed away on February 27, 2003. His wife Joanne is still alive, and he also left behind two adult sons, James and John.
Before that though, there were a lot of bright spots for Mr. Rogers later in life. He received a Lifetime Achievement Emmy in 1997, and then in 1999 was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame. And 2002 was also a big year for the television icon, as he gave a commencement speech at Dartmouth College in 2002 (yes, you can watch it right here!). He was also presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush and received the Commonwealth Award which celebrates “ the best of human achievement.”
Even after his death, he received a lots of honors and in 2008, to mark what would have been his 80th birthday, people all over the world were encouraged to wear sweaters for “Sweater Day.” Ten years after that, in 2018, Mr. Rogers wound up on a postage stamp. Now, Tom Hanks is playing him a studio movie.
He might be gone, but his legacy will continue to live on forever through his show, and through acts of kindness all over the world.