Former Crookston man's book describes his beautiful days in Mister Rogers' neighborhood
CROOKSTON - Last weekend, Tim Madigan returned to his neighborhood to talk about the ultimate in neighborhood guys - Mister Rogers. Madigan's "neighborhood" is Crookston, also the childhood home of my favorite columnist. I've known the 48-year-ol...
CROOKSTON - Last weekend, Tim Madigan returned to his neighborhood to talk about the ultimate in neighborhood guys - Mister Rogers.
Madigan's "neighborhood" is Crookston, also the childhood home of my favorite columnist. I've known the 48-year-old Madigan since he was a kid known as "Mad Dog," which was a reflection of his surname and not his personality.
I knew him first as a hockey and baseball teammate of my little brother. Then, I knew him as a part-time sportswriter who worked for me in my former life when I ran the Herald's toys-and-games department.
I could see he had writing talent, but I couldn't have imagined that he'd reach the career he's having today. Among his numerous writing awards is the James Batten Award for Excellence in Civic Journalism, an award not widely known to the general public but one treasured by newspaper writers almost as highly as a Pulitzer.
He came to the Red River Valley soon after the 1997 flood and wrote a long piece for his Fort Worth (Tex.) News-Telegram newspaper. Of all the outsiders who came to chronicle what exactly happened here, his story captured reality the best. That's because he wasn't really an outsider, and also because he's a gifted writer.
Madigan still works on special projects for the News-Telegram, but he also writes books. His most recent one is his most successful, with an initial printing of 50,000 copies and front-of-the-store display at national chain bookstores upon its release. It's titled "I'm Proud of You," the story of how his friendship with Fred Rogers helped him through trying times.
Yes, that Mister Rogers.
I don't write book reviews, but I have four words of advice: Read it; It's good.
It's the same advice given by the vast majority of reviewers nationwide.
The book includes a reference to his visit to this area after the flood. There are references that people in the region - and especially those who are from Crookston - can relate to with head-nodding agreement.
The book deals with Madigan's eight-year friendship with Rogers, who he met while interviewing him for a story. As their friendship grew through a series of e-mail messages, Madigan received advice about dealing with his "furies," Rogers' term for his emotional troubles. Rogers' messages always ended with the words, "I'm proud of you."
Without revealing the details, Madigan had relationship problems with his wife, his father, his brother and himself. All of those problems were resolved with the help of Rogers, who was an even greater person than his television persona, Madigan said.
"Fred's television show demonstrated him to be this wonderful, gentle, wise person with children, but there was an adult part of him that was even more wonderful because when faced with real-life, nitty-gritty realities, he never wavered from his essential goodness, compassion and love," Madigan said.
The other part of the book that has seemed to resonate with readers is Rogers' dealing with people who were gravely ill or gravely troubled. He'd always ask those people to pray for him. This was counter-intuitive because the usual course was to pray for those who are sick, not the other way around.
"Fred's theory was that those who had suffered so much were closer to God," Madigan said. "So, he genuinely wanted someone close to God to pray for him."
This example came to play Sunday in Crookston. Madigan had spent Saturday autographing his books at Barnes & Noble in Grand Forks and then speaking at the Cathedral church of his childhood. On Sunday, he spoke at all three Trinity Lutheran services.
At one of the services, the family of Kory Kelly, the 38-year-old Crookston hunter who has been missing since Oct. 16, took their usual seats in the fourth row of pews.
"My talk is emotional and pretty intense, so I thought maybe I should throttle it back some," Madigan said. "But then I decided to give it the way I always have."
Toward the end of his talk, he gestured toward the Kelly family members and said that Fred Rogers, if he were still alive, would be asking some people in the congregation for their prayers because they were suffering greatly and were thus close to God.
Pat Kelly, Kory's mother, approached Madigan after the service and said she'd be praying for Fred Rogers.
"It was an unbelievable moment, one that I'll not forget as long as I live," Madigan said. "If this was the only thing that comes out of the book, it was worth it.
"It was testament to how Fred's tentacles are still reaching out and touching people."