Bob Welti, the smiling weatherman at Salt Lake City’s KSL-Ch. 5 from 1965 to 1991, has died at the age of 94.
The station said his family had confirmed Welti died Tuesday afternoon.
Welti began his television career in 1948 at the pioneering KDYL-TV, Salt Lake City’s first TV station. KSL hired him and sportscaster Paul James away to work with lead anchor Dick Nourse in the 1960s, and the trio embodied KSL’s on-air personality for decades as the station rose to lead the market.
Former station weatherman Kent Norton, who worked with Welti for years, said in an interview with KSL that Welti had an “extraordinary ability” to communicate with viewers. “It’s something you’re born with,” Norton said, “being able to connect with people one-on-one, through the camera.”
Welti grew up in Logan and worked at radio station KVNU while in high school before joining the U.S. Navy during World War II, he said in a July 1988 oral history interview with University of Utah professor Tim Larson.
He was working at radio station KDYL when station owner Sid Fox started KDYL-TV, initially known as Experimental Station W6XIS, according to a transcript of the interview. (The station eventually became KTVX-Ch. 4.)
Welti was an announcer at both the radio and TV stations the next year, he said, when program director Danny Rainger asked him, "Bob, who knows anything about the weather around here?" and he answered, “I do.”
Welti explained he had received “pretty good meteorological training" as a pilot in the Navy during World War II.
Rainger, he remembered, responded: “Good. You're our TV weatherman."
When Welti asked what a TV weatherman would do, he said, Rainger told him, “I don’t know. You’re the TV weatherman. You figure it out."
So, long before “radar and satellites and upper air charts and all that kind of stuff,” Welti said, he would draw weather fronts on a map of the country and share the forecast.
At KSL, he and Nourse and James had a special chemistry, Welti said, and he and James especially would “horse around” and share jokes on air until consultants stepped in and discouraged it.
On the first day the station had teleprompters, he told an audience at the Salt Lake City Public Library in 2006, James wrote a note and put it on the new screen as Welti announced the weather. “Your wife wants you to bring home a loaf of bread,” it said.
It’s “terribly hard” to not say the displayed words, Welti said, and as he struggled to stay focused, he described a high pressure area that had appeared “over a loaf of bread.” As soon as James started his sports segment, Welti said, he put up a note in retaliation that said, “Your house is on fire” — and James soon said, "Today the Cougars are on fire, ah, no ... "
“And so we agreed we’d never do that to each other again, never,” he said as the audience laughed.
During his talk, part of a World War II lecture series, he described his Navy pilot training and his enduring love of flying.
The biggest change he saw over his television career was the ease and speed of getting footage ready to broadcast, compared to the slow pace of developing film, he said in the 1988 interview. “If we had one or two film stories we were lucky, so most of the news was ‘talking heads’ back in the old days,” Welti said.
“And then the weather, of course, tremendous strides both in the accuracy of the forecast and the visibility of it,” he added. Computer graphics with information from satellites “have added so much to the visual presentation. It's so much more enjoyable to watch.”
With KSL’s wide coverage area, he said, “we can't take the time to describe the forecast for Idaho Falls and for St. George, but you can show it on a map in seconds.”
Welti retired from the station in 1991. In a tweet posted Tuesday afternoon, KSL anchor Dave McCann said: “He will always be a key figure in our KSL legacy.”
James started at the station with Welti in 1965, called Brigham Young University football and basketball games for 36 years until his retirement in 2001, and died last October at the age of 87. Nourse, 79, had started at KSL in 1964 and retired from the station in 2007.
Welti’s family had moved to Utah from New York when he was 2 years old, after his father graduated from Cornell University and got a job at then-Utah State Agricultural College. Welti met his wife, Georgia Fullmer, at Utah State, where she was a student body officer and a homecoming queen, according to the family.
"Saw her on a white float going down Main Street. My little heart went pitter-pat, " he told Larson. They married in 1948 and raised five daughters; Georgia Welti died in 2007.
At the end of their interview, Larson asked Welti what he would want people to know about him in the future. Both the industry and Utahns were good to him, Welti answered — noting people rarely abused his listed phone number.
“Once in a great while I’ll get a call from some drunk at 3 o’clock in the morning,” he said. “‘Hey, should I take an umbrella to work tomorrow, ha ha ha’ and [they’ll] hang up.”
Welti added: “It’s just been a marvelous life. I can’t believe as I look back on my life how lucky I’ve been and how much fun it’s been.”