From 1968 until 2001, Fred Rogers was an important part of the morning routine of many of America’s young children. The host of the iconic television show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, Rogers had some routines of his own, too. On the show, he’d come into his “home,” take off his coat and hang it up in the closet, put on a zippered cardigan, and change from dress shoes into sneakers. In real life, he was also a creature of habit: according to writer Tom Junod, Rogers woke at 5 A.M. each morning and, before starting his day, prayed, studied, swam, replied to fan letters, and got on the scale.
And every day, Fred Rogers weighed in at 143 pounds.
As Junod wrote (as retold by mental_floss), from his mid-40s until his death at age 75 in 2003, Rogers had a neat daily goal — keep his weight exactly the same. His generally trim physique was part and parcel of his suite of healthy habits — Rogers was a non-drinker, non-smoker who, for most of his adulthood, was vegetarian. But there was more to it than that. The affable Mr. Rogers wished to see his best traits — his compassion, warmth, and kindness — reflected back at him.
For Rogers, there was something magical about the number 143. To him, it stood as a symbol of love, or, more accurately, of the phrase “I Love You.” ”I” has one letter, “Love” has four, and “You” has three. 143.
Bonus fact: In 1997, Fred Rogers was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Daytime Emmy Awards. Unlike most honorees who tend to give longwinded acceptance speeches which take up more time than they are alloted, Mr. Rogers did the opposite. During his speech (watch the whole 3:13 video here), he asked attendees to reflect on someone who made a difference in their lives: “All of us have special ones who loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, 10 seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are, those who cared about you and wanted what was best for you in life. 10 seconds, I’ll watch the time.” With that, Rogers paused for ten seconds, eyes fixed on his watch.
From the Archives: Thomas the Tank Engine’s Unlikely Friend: The story of a narrator of another children’s show.
Related: A Mr. Rogers DVD which comes in a red zippered cardigan. Wow.