Sculpture of Fred Rogers unveiled on North Side
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A sculpture of the late children's television pioneer Fred Rogers was unveiled on the North Side today.
Known as "Tribute to Children," the site featuring the new sculpture is in a park on the riverfront near Heinz Field. The bronze sculpture created by Robert Berks is 10 feet, 10 inches in height and weighs more than 7,000 pounds.
The location on the North Shore was chosen in part so that Mr. Rogers could serve as an "ambassador" of Pittsburgh for thousands of daily motorists crossing the Fort Duquesne Bridge, families using the adjacent trail or viewers seeing it outside of Heinz Field on Monday Night Football.
"I can't think of a better symbol to promote Pittsburgh to the world than Fred Rogers," said Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato.
Mr. Rogers died in 2003 at the age of 74.
The statue of Mr. Rogers faces the city skyline and depicts Mr. Rogers sitting down and tying his sneakers, as he did at the beginning of each episode of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood." "It's the only pose my husband would consider," said Dorothy Berks, speaking for the 87-year-old sculptor, who is ill. "It's the pose that everyone identifies with him."
Mr. Berks also created the statues of Mayor Richard Caliguiri on Grant Street and of Albert Einstein in Washington, D.C. The Einstein statue was one of Mr. Rogers' favorites, said his widow, Joanne Rogers, and he would make a point to visit it when he was in the D.C. area.
The monument's setting was designed by the Pittsburgh architecture firm Astorino, whose chief executive officer, Lou Astorino, first thought to use the site of the Manchester Bridge pier for the monument.
The statue was the brainchild of philanthropist Cordelia May, a longtime friend of the Rogers family, who commissioned the piece. Though Mrs. May died in 2005, maintenance on the site is permanently endowed through the Colcom Foundation, which she founded.
Mrs. Rogers joked that when Mrs. May first approached her about creating a memorial to Mr. Rogers, she thought that her notoriously shy and modest husband "would be horrified." But she believes now that he would be thrilled to be a part of a monument to children and families.
"I know that [Mr. Rogers and Mrs. May] would be happy for us to have this place, which will be a place of remembrance," she said. "Remembering the child in you and celebrating that, enjoying it with your children. It's a place for families in the best sort of way."
First Published November 5, 2009 11:23 am