Rogers reveals how they first fell in love, and the significance of the number 143.

By Meghan Overdeep
July 09, 2018

On weekday afternoons for more than three decades, Fred Rogers was welcomed into living rooms across the country. The success of his eponymous children's show, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, hinged on his friendliness, candor and uncanny approachability. But few knew the late television icon like his wife of 50 years, pianist Joanne Rogers.

On a recent appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,Joanne opened up about their enduring love story, and the special significance of the number 143.

The couple first met at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. She told Fallon that she'd never met a guy like Fred before.

"He was different," she told the host. "In his young days, he was lively and full of fun … but he talked about his feelings, and I could talk about my feelings to him, and the things that bothered us … the things that we loved."

"You can't build a friendship without doing that," she continued. "And don't you have to have a friendship to fall back on through your married life? And we had it for 50 years, so that was nice."

Their unique bond also held the key to Fred's fixation on the number 143, which, as Joanne explained, spelled out "I Love You," and was meant to be a special shout out to her. She added that the number meant so much to him that he even maintained a bodyweight of 143 lbs throughout his adult life.

Watch Joanne's heartwarming interview above and check out the new documentary about Fred Rogers' one-of-a-kind life, Won't You Be My Neighbor, in theaters now.