Willard Scott – the mensch that delivered to the masses the weather forecast for any particular day on the NBC Today morning show (and always doing so with a smile and a knowing wink) from 1980 until he passed the torch to fellow meteorologist Al Roker in 1996 – died on Saturday at the age of 87, leaving behind family, friends and a whole world full of fans who will never forget the bigger than life, amiable Alexandria, Virginia native that brightened the planet at large just by virtue of being in it.
It might be impossible to convey to the generations that came along after the glory days of the morning news programs just what a big deal Scott and his cohorts were to the discerning coffee and bagels crowd; you had to be there. Together with Jane Pauley and Bryant Gumbel, Willard Scott owned a three hour block or so of our time Monday through Friday via Today and to be for sure one cannot think of tropes and staples of the 1980s and early 90s without conjuring up images of the network’s morning Johnny on the spot weather prognosticator with his rich, warm voice that sounded as if it sprang fully formed from a can of industrial strength Sanka and his jolly demeanor that would have been right at home in a Frank Capra film. With a warm, inviting face that was oft times accentuated by a snap brim hat and a festive scarf, Americans looked at Willard Scott as if he was an old and trusted friend, forgiving him the few times he might have missed the mark when it came to the weather and feeling reassured in the abundance of times he nailed the forecast with Rain Man-like precision.
And Birthdays – Let me tell you, Dear and Constant Reader, Willard Scott became a de facto walking, talking Centennial Birthday greeting card to any and all lucky citizens who were blessed to make it to the ripe old age of 100 or more. As a kid I remember sitting spellbound at Scott’s daily salutations (usually tucked in at the end of his final morning forecast) to those stalwarts who hit the ten decade mark and developing a real appreciation and awareness for generations that had been kicking around a lot longer than I had been.
In an emotional tribute, Scott’s successor Al Roker said that Scott had “passed peacefully at the age of 87 surrounded by his family, including his daughters Sally and Mary and his lovely wife, Paris. He was truly my second dad and am where I am today because of his generous spirit. Willard was a man of his times, the ultimate broadcaster. There will never be anyone quite like him.”
Another reason to love Willard Scott: According to our buddies at Variety, he was the original Ronald McDonald, as in the very first, as in no one before him had ever tried on that famous advertising point-man for McDonald’s before him. You have to admire a pioneer of that ilk, no questions asked, and I’m pretty positive that his work as the hamburger-lovin’ clown fueled my own early love for all things Happy Meal releated…
Vents extends our condolences to the family, friends and fans of the legendary Willard Scott.