Sept. 4 (UPI) — Willard Scott, the iconic weatherman for NBC’s Today who created his own niche in pop culture with his spirited personality and zany shtick that was copied and parodied by others, died Saturday at 87, the network’s Al Roker confirmed.
Scott worked for NBC for 65 years, starting as a page for its affiliate in Washington D.C. and eventually joined Today in 1980. He became best known for wishing fans who turned 100 years old happy birthday on the air, a segment that grew in popularity over the years.
He got his on-air break in 1950 doing local weather forecasts, charming his audience with his outgoing personality.
“We lost a beloved member of our @todayshow family this morning,” Roker wrote on Instagram. “Willard Scott passed peacefully at the age of 87 surrounded by 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.”
A native of Alexandria, Va. and a graduate of American University, Scott’s weather reports led him to host NBC Radio’s Joy Boys, where he continued until1974. He hosted a range of children’s television shows on WRC, according to NBC.
Scott became the first person to play Ronald McDonald, appearing in local commercials in Washington, D.C. starting in 1963. He became WRC-TV’s full-time weatherman in the 1970s before NBC promoted him to the Today show in 1980.
”I just love people,” Scott told the New York Times in 1987 in an article on why so many advertisers and the public were attracted to him. ”A lot of speakers on the talk circuit leave right afterward. I do a lot of shmoozing. I’m like a dog. You just open the door and I go, ‘rrrr, rrrr,’and then I lick everybody’s face.”
Roker replaced Scott in 1996 on Today and retired from television altogether in 2015.
Scott married Mary Dwyer Scott in 1959 and had two children. She died in 2002. He is survived by his wife Paris Keena, whom he married in 2014.