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Monument to honor children's TV legend



Published: Sat, April 23, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The sculpture will be in Pittsburgh, but no site has been picked yet.

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Sculptor Robert Berks, renowned for works including a bust of John F. Kennedy and his reclining image of Albert Einstein, has been picked to create a monument honoring children's television pioneer Fred Rogers.

Rogers' widow, Joanne, who is touring to promote a new DVD collection of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" episodes and the latest book of quotes from her late husband's TV alter ego, confirmed the project in Saturday's editions of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Joanne Rogers said the sculpture will be in Pittsburgh, but that a site hasn't been picked. Rogers was a native of Latrobe, about 35 miles east of Pittsburgh.

Berks hasn't spoken publicly about the project, nor has anyone at Family Communications Inc., the company that produced "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" for public television and controls Mister Rogers' image.

Rogers said few details are forthcoming now to protect the identity of an anonymous donor behind the project.

'His favorite sculptor'

Fred Rogers, who died in February 2003 of stomach cancer, was a big fan of Berks, his wife said. Berks is perhaps best known for his bust of Kennedy, at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., as well as the Einstein statue on the grounds of the National Academy of Sciences, also in the nation's capital.

"I think [Fred Rogers] would be amazed," Joanne Rogers said of the project. "I can say this: Berks was probably his favorite sculptor. He always wanted to go see Berks' Einstein whenever he was in Washington, D.C."

Berks has created more than 300 bronze portraits and more than a dozen monuments, featuring people ranging from Bob Hope and Johnny Carson to Ernest Hemingway and Martin Luther King Jr.

Pittsburgh residents can see Berks' work every day; his 9-foot statue of former Mayor Richard Caliguiri graces the steps of the City-County Building.

Berks works out of his studio on Long Island, N.Y.

Stanley Stern, a film producer from East Hampton, N.Y., had hoped to include footage of Berks working on the Rogers sculpture in a documentary, but he couldn't secure the rights to film Berks. Stern still hopes to combine footage from Family Communications with Berks' comments on the sculpture.

"They want to do a [film] piece locally, for Pittsburgh," Stern said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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