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Colcom Foundation

Colcom Foundation Continues to Honor Cordelia Scaife May’s Gesture of Friendship to Fred Rogers and Pittsburgh’s Children 

Along the picturesque North Shore in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, stands a monument to the friendship between two of America’s most influential personalities — Fred Rogers and Cordelia Scaife May — an unlikely pair whose bond was stronger than their vastly different backgrounds. 

While Fred Rogers spent his life in front of the camera, spreading joy and wisdom through his iconic television series, Cordelia Scaife May preferred a life of quiet philanthropy, making a difference behind the scenes with her generous support of various causes.

Despite their contrasting approaches, Cordelia Scaife May and Fred Rogers shared a deep commitment to improving the lives of others. Fred used his charismatic presence and gentle guidance to nurture young minds and hearts, while Cordelia Scaife May’s contributions came through her dedication to supporting initiatives that aligned with her values.

Upon Fred’s passing, Cordelia Scaife May decided to honor her friend’s memory in the city he called home. She began collaborating with Fred’s wife, Joanne Rogers, on creating a sculpture that would incur no cost to the City of Pittsburgh and its residents.

When Joanne Rogers first heard the idea of erecting a statue honoring her famously modest husband, her initial thought was, “Oh, Fred would be horrified.” However, she quickly realized that the statue’s purpose as a tribute to children would have made all the difference in his eyes. “It’s not all about him,” she remarked, “it’s about the children.”

Joanne envisioned young ones crawling onto the bronze statue’s lap, which depicts Mister Rogers sitting down and tying his iconic sneakers, just as he did at the beginning of each “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” episode. 

As sculptor Robert Berks’ wife would later confirm, “It’s the pose that everyone identifies with [Mr. Rogers].”

By immortalizing his likeness in a larger-than-life sculpture, Cordelia Scaife May and Joanne Rogers sought to ensure that Fred’s enduring spirit would continue to touch the lives of those who encountered the “Tribute to Children.” The monument would serve as a tangible reminder of the values he championed – compassion, curiosity, and the unbreakable bonds of human connection.

The location of the “Tribute to Children” statue was the brainchild of architect Lou Astorino, whose keen eye noticed the old Manchester Bridge Pier one day while gazing down from Mount Washington. The riverfront spot immediately reminded him of Mister Rogers – both for his love of swimming and the picturesque skyline view of the city he adored so dearly.

The vision was ambitious yet simple: to erect a sculpture that would inspire hope in generations to come, paying homage to Fred Rogers’ mission to nurture the minds and hearts of children.

What began as a gesture of friendship soon blossomed into a collaborative effort involving over 20 stakeholder groups and countless individuals. Through years of dedication and meticulous planning, “Tribute to Children” began to take shape.

Central to the project’s success was the unconventional conservation and reuse model employed in the renovation of the Manchester Bridge Pier. Although Cordelia Scaife May did not live to see the statue’s location finalized, her Colcom Foundation upheld her ideals and passion for conservation in the decision to use the abandoned pier. Once forgotten, it now serves as the perfect canvas for celebrating Fred Rogers’ legacy.

The choice of location upheld Cordelia’s Scaife May’s commitment to minimizing ecological footprints through sustainable practices. By repurposing the existing structure, the project not only revitalized a neglected space but also paid homage to Pittsburgh’s rich industrial heritage. 

This innovative approach also echoed Fred Rogers’ belief in finding the good in all things. It’s a beautiful reminder of Mr. Rogers’ famous words: “Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.”

By breathing new life into the forgotten pier, the “Tribute to Children” embodies the very essence of Fred’s message: transformation, hope, and the power of seeing the good in ourselves and the world around us.

One of the most touching details of the sculpture is an adjustment made by Joanne Rogers to one of the teeth, ensuring that it resembled her late husband even more closely. This small gesture speaks volumes about the love and devotion shared between Fred and Joanne.

Designed to be easily visited via all forms of local transportation, the site welcomes families and visitors from near and far, offering a space for reflection, inspiration, and connection.

The maintenance of the monument is entirely funded by Cordelia Scaife May’s ColcomFoundation in accordance with her wishes. This ensures that the city and its residents will never absorb the costs, allowing “Tribute to Children” to remain a cherished gift to Pittsburgh, unburdened by financial constraints.

Today, “Tribute to Children” stands as a place where memories are made, lessons are learned, and love is celebrated. Children can once again experience the comfort of sitting in Mister Rogers’ lap, just as they did when they gathered around their television sets to spend time in his Neighborhood. 

The bronze sculpture encourages young people to play and climb on it freely.  

It’s a reminder of Fred Rogers’ famous words, “You always make each day a special day. You know how: By just your being yourself. There’s only one person in the whole world that’s like you, and that’s you. And people can like you just exactly the way you are.”

Thanks to the love of his dear friend Cordelia Scaife May, Mr. Rogers is still touching lives in Pittsburgh, and every day is “a beautiful day in the neighborhood.”

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