Jerry Taft, who’s been a trusted and engaging presence in front of Chicago weather maps for more than 40 years, is retiring as chief meteorologist at top-rated WLS-Channel 7, the ABC-owned station announced Wednesday.
“While I still have my health, wit and vitality it’s time to hang out with my real family, assuming they still remember me,” Taft, 74, told colleagues in an email. “And I also need to hit the golf course while I still have a single digit handicap.”
He’ll make his final appearance on ABC 7 January 19.
Jennifer Graves, vice president and news director of ABC 7, said in a statement: “Jerry Taft won the trust of our viewers with his knowledge and experience forecasting Chicago’s weather. He won the affection of our viewers with his self-effacing sense of humor, infectious laugh and relatability. That combination has made him one of Chicago’s most respected and popular meteorologists for the past four decades.
“All of us at ABC 7, along with his many fans, will miss Jerry. We thank him and wish him nothing but sunny skies and a continued low handicap on the golf course,” she added.
Taft’s interest in weather began in the U.S. Air Force, which he joined as a 19-year-old radar technician. He eventually became a combat pilot, spent a year in Vietnam, taught aviation and flight planning, and earned a degree in meteorology from the University of Wisconsin in 1969.
From his first on-air job at KMOL, the NBC affiliate in San Antonio, Texas, Taft joined NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 in 1977. Seven years later he moved to ABC 7.
In 2005 he was inducted in the Silver Circle of the Chicago/Midwest chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Long a fixture on ABC 7’s 10 p.m. weekday newscast, Taft reduced his schedule last year to the station’s 6 p.m. newscast and Weigel Broadcasting WCIU-Channel 26’s 7 p.m. newscast, which is produced by ABC 7.
No successor has been announced, but meteorologists Cheryl Scott and Larry Mowry are expected to pick up where Taft leaves off.
Taft is the third longtime TV weatherman to announce his retirement in recent weeks, following Steve Baskerville of CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 and Jim Ramsey of Tribune Broadcasting WGN-Channel 9.
Here is the text of Taft’s email to colleagues:
It has been a great run, but all good things eventually come to an end. So my last day will be January 19th. However I have to admit that when I left the Air Force I could never imagine… 42 years on Chicago television and 34 years on ABC 7 Chicago.
It’s been a joy walking into ABC7 everyday knowing that it’s not work, but being with my extended family. When I first arrived here we had elevator operators. The newsroom was full of smoke and the hum of IBM Selectric typewriters. No computers. The scripts went to the set in pneumatic tubes. 35mm film was being spliced together for air and weather was presented on maps drawn by the art department. We have come a long way and I’ve been here the whole time. Amazing.
While I still have my health, wit and vitality it’s time to hang out with my real family, assuming they still remember me. And I also need to hit the golf course while I still have a single digit handicap. I want to thank everyone for their love and support and wish all a happy holiday.
Here is the text of Graves’s memo to staff:
Those of you in the news department have probably already seen Jerry Taft’s memo announcing that he’s winding down his time here at ABC 7. Jerry’s last day on the air will be Friday, January 19, 2018.
I can’t say enough about Jerry’s contributions to our station over the past three decades. He’s earned the trust and respect of our viewers with his forecasting skills. And he’s won a spot in their hearts with his one-of-a-kind personality. Then there’s his laugh; what more can I say about that! He’s a true communicator who has become part of our viewers’ lives.
Jerry wanted today’s announcement to be low-key. You can read more about his career in the attached release and for those of you who didn’t receive Jerry’s email, the text is below. And please enjoy the photos that are attached.
We’ll celebrate Jerry’s career in the new year, Jerry-style.
For now, let’s all wish Jerry the best and congratulate him on a job well-done!