Always welcome on Fred Rogers’ Neighborhood set

AP photographer Gene Puskar shares his memories, never-before-published images of his friend

From 1984 through 2000, I had the privilege of spending countless hours documenting a very special neighbor, Fred Rogers of “Mister Roger's Neighborhood.”

A more kind and caring neighbor there never was or will be. Whether working behind the set with his puppets, feeding his fish, pulling on his cardigan or talking to a young AP photographer about his kids between takes, Mister Rogers had a message: We are all special, just the way we are.

During those extended visits on the sets, we had time to talk. He was into cameras and photography. Obviously, he was very comfortable being in front of the camera and I think he was a very visual person. The people who worked with him for years and years were absolutely like a family. When you were in that studio with them, you were witnessing a family. It was a family going about their business and their business was making a television show for kids.

The days I spent photographing in “Mister Roger's Neighborhood” remain some of the greatest days of my 41-year career at the AP.