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High on a hill overlooking Latrobe, Pennsylvania, . . .

. . . stands the St. Vincent Basilica.

Both the exterior and the interior of the structure built around the turn of the 19th century are beautiful.

The basilica is on the campus of St. Vincent College, which is home to the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media. The Center honors the work of Fred Rogers and continues to promote his values.

The center houses the extensive Fred Rogers archives and has a public interactive display showcasing his life and work.

It was wonderful to share this trip with our youngest daughter, Mary Evelyn Notgrass McCurdy. After all, Ray and I first learned to love Mister Rogers when we watched him with our children. It is a privilege now to watch our grandchildren loving him, too.

We were particularly excited to see the original Neighborhood Trolley, Daniel Striped Tiger’s Clock, and the King Friday XIII, Queen Sara, Prince Tuesday, Daniel Striped Tiger, Lady Elaine Fairchilde, and X the Owl puppets. The display has many wonderful photographs of Mister Rogers throughout his life and also photos of his family, his “neighbors” on the television program, and many people who appeared as guests on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

On display are four of Mister Rogers’ sweaters, a pair of his tennis shoes, items made at factories owned by his father and grandfather, and several awards that Rogers received. The display has extensive biographical information to read and is sprinkled with many powerful quotes from Mister Rogers, including this one:

I think it was when I was leaving one time to go home after our time together that my grandfather said to me, “You know, you made this day a really special day—just by being yourself. There’s only one person in the world like you. And I happen to like you just the way you are.” Well, talk about good stuff. That just went right into my heart. And it never budged. And I’ve been able to pass that on. And that’s a wonderful legacy.  — Fred Rogers

And this one:

As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has—or ever will have—something inside that is unique to all time. It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression. — Fred Rogers

On two screens, visitors can choose segments of their favorite episodes to watch. In addition to our family group, two young couples were there on the day we visited. I noticed that one couple watched segment after segment. I wondered what drew these young adults to the center and how Mister Rogers had ministered to their hearts and souls.

After viewing the display, we walked over to the office of the Fred Rogers Center. Our daughter knocked on the door and asked if we could come in. A staff member welcomed us inside and showed us around. Several of us sat at Mister Rogers’ desk, which is now used by a staff member (I asked. This is not Mister Rogers’ computer).

We sat in his chair . . .

. . . and saw his typewriter.

Perhaps the biggest thrill of all was when the staff member escorted us to a corner room with large windows. We learned that Fred Rogers designed this beautiful room himself. It had been his intention to teach at St. Vincent College after he retired from Mister Rogers Neighborhood. The room was to be living quarters for him and his wife when they were on campus. A nearby room was to have been his office. Sadly, Mister Rogers died before this dream could come true.

The room had a seating area and a conference table. Shelves held more awards Mister Rogers had received. Above the pretty fireplace were two more puppets: Harriett Elizabeth Cow and Henrietta Pussycat. The most wonderful objects in the room were Mister Rogers’ own grand piano and the grand piano that belonged to his wife Joann. Her piano came to the center only a few months ago after her death in January 2021. These pianos were once in the Rogers’ home. Fred, the performer, composer, and songwriter, and Joann, the concert pianist, both loved to play; and they loved to play together. We took turns sitting at the pianos, our hearts filled with awe and gratitude for this priceless gift that God gave us that day.

Well, my eyes are closed, but I am sitting at Fred Rogers’ grand piano!

The archivist was away from the office on the day we visited, so we couldn’t go into the room where the archives are stored. We were, however, able to peek into its windows. There amidst the boxes and boxes were more puppets: Ana Platypus, Betty Okonak Templeton-Jones, and James Michael Jones.

Many cities have fun themed sculptures that decorate their downtowns. In Pittsburgh these statues are dinosaurs. We saw this one in the Senator John Heinz History Center.

We saw this one on the lower level of the Fred Rogers Center. The art department of Mister Rogers Neighborhood created it. Here is a view from the front.

And here’s a view from the side.

In the St. Vincent Basilica is this stained glass window depicting Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. God sent Jesus into the world as a baby. He chose Mary and Joseph to take care of Him while He was growing up.

God has chosen you to take care of rare and valuable human beings who are unique to all time and who are special just the way they are. What a privilege it is to do that every day.

Thank you for doing that, you rare, valuable, unique Mama.

My frame was not hidden from You
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully formed in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my formless substance;
And in Your book were written
All the days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.
Psalm 139:15-16

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