The man who greeted generations of children by asking them to be his neighbor will be memorialized in his Latrobe hometown with two days of special events this month.
Fred Rogers was known for teaching legions of children how to be compassionate and love themselves as the gentle host of the Public Broadcasting Service show “Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.”
He died in 2003 at 74.
The weekend honoring him — called “Bringing Fred Home” — will begin June 10 with a gala featuring artisanal food, music for dancing and art displays at the Latrobe Art Center.
On June 11, the city will host a visit from Daniel Tiger — a character inspired by the original PBS television show — in James H. Rogers Park, named for Rogers' father and maintained by the foundation established by the family in 1953.
Puppet shows and a trolley — both key elements from “Mister Rogers' Neighborhood” — music and festival games, a film history of Latrobe, and photos and memorabilia of Rogers will be available throughout downtown from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
At 1:43 p.m., a life-size bronze statue of Rogers and a historical marker will be unveiled near the park's signature fountain.
The time references the 143 Club, part of the Fred Rogers Center at St. Vincent College, art center Director Gabi Nastuck said.
“It was an expression he used — ‘I' is one letter, ‘love' is four letters and ‘you' is three letters. That was his number,” she said.
The events are a collaboration of the art center and the McFeely-Rogers Foundation.
During the gala and through July 6, visitors may view 2,250 vibrant puzzle pieces that will be installed on the art center's windows and its gallery and annex's cream-colored walls.
Each 2-foot-square piece is part of the global Puzzle Art Installation and Collaborative Project, coordinated by Brooklyn artist Tim Kelly.
What started out with 1,000 pieces more than doubled as clubs, families and school and art students each claimed a puzzle piece to decorate.
Nastuck said she learned about the project on Pinterest and thought it was a good fit for “Bringing Fred Home.” Recalling Rogers' oft-repeated quote, “There's only one person in the whole world just like you,” she said each person is like a piece in the great puzzle of humanity.
“There was no theme. We just said create something that is meaningful to you — tell your story,” Nastuck said.
For a $10 donation, artists painted, glued photographs, wrote poetry and drew on the white pieces.
Beneficiaries are the art center, Latrobe-GLSD Parks and Recreation, Adams Memorial Library, Action for Animals, Relay for Life and the Greater Latrobe Art Conservation Trust.
Members of the National Art Honor Society and center volunteers will assist with mounting the puzzle pieces Thursday.
“Tim Kelly will be here, directing all of us,” Nastuck said.
Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5401 or firstname.lastname@example.org.