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‘1-4-3 Day’ will celebrate Mister Rogers’ message of love | TribLIVE.com
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‘1-4-3 Day’ will celebrate Mister Rogers’ message of love

Jacob Tierney
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Fred Rogers on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

The number 143 meant a lot to Fred Rogers, and not just because it’s the weight he maintained his entire adult life.

It was one of many ways he said “I love you.”

Representing the one letter in “I,” four in “love” and three in “you,” the number was a shorthand reminder of compassion.

“He would always refer to 143 as a way of spreading kindness, and remembering how he felt toward other people,” said Roberta Schomburg, executive director of the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College.

That he always weighed in at 143 pounds after his morning swim was a fitting coincidence, said Fred Rogers Center spokeswoman Karen Struble Myers.

“The man was made of love,” she said.

Pennsylvanians are encouraged to follow the legendary children’s show host’s example May 23 — the 143rd day of the year.

Gov. Tom Wolf has declared Thursday “1-4-3 Day,” a statewide celebration of kindness.

The “Live Like Fred” initiative, started by Colton DeBiase and his mother, Melissa, of Murrysville, will mark the occasion by giving out stuffed bears at Beechwood Elementary School in Pittsburgh.

The school has been using the campaign’s custom “kindness bears” in its kindergarten classes to teach lessons about caring for others.

On Thursday, the kindergarten students will all get their own kindness bears to keep.

“Our message is simply to spread kindness, and that is what we’re trying to do here, with the kindness bears,” Colton DeBiase said.

Wolf’s office is encouraging people to share acts of kindness on Twitter using the #143DayinPa hashtag.

“We all want to make sure Mister Rogers’ legacy can live on through future generations,” Colton said.

Schomburg worked with Rogers at his production company, originally called Family Communications, now known as Fred Rogers Productions.

She wrote the “Mister Rogers’ Plan and Play Book,” which provided activities for parents and caregivers to do with their children to accompany lessons from the show.

In the past few years, she’s seen a surge in admiration and interest in Rogers’ life and legacy. The governor’s creation of 1-4-3 Day is just the latest example.

Rogers was the subject of the critically acclaimed documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” last year, and Tom Hanks will play Rogers in the upcoming biopic “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”

In a confusing and scary world, Rogers’ simple example of love is increasingly relevant, Schomburg said.

“People are just looking for answers, and looking for a kind of response to world events,” she said.

Rogers died in 2003.

“I think people turn to Fred, because he always was someone who stepped forward in times of crisis,” Schomburg said.

The best way to honor Rogers’ legacy — on 1-4-3 Day and every day — is to take some time to quietly think about ways to make the world better, she said.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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