In 1965, Dick Goddard briefly left Cleveland for Philadelphia. It wasn't long before he realized his mistake. "I remember being on the air, and there was a severe thunderstorm over Kutztown," he recalls. "I thought, I don't know anyone in Kutztown. Here, if there was a thunderstorm in Galion, I would know somebody. It was personal." Goddard returned to Cleveland after a few months and has been here ever since. May 1 marks his 50th anniversary on air, first at Channel 3 and for the past 45 years at Fox 8.
In fact, he was the first meteorologist on the city's airwaves. In a world of wacky weathermen working for laughs, Goddard was the only one who knew what an isobar was. "I was terrible," he recalls. "I was so uptight. My voice had to be up several octaves. ... I used no punctuation. I just kept going."
Dick Goddard is living nostalgia. He reminds us of our younger days, but we can still watch him every evening. None of it goes to his head either. When after one of the evening forecasts his station announced the city was renaming part of Marginal Road after him, Goddard didn't even stick around to say a few words. He may be an icon, but he doesn't see it that way.
"Being on television, people know you," he explains. "So many people have been so very good to me, but in 10 years people won't know who I am. I don't mean to be self-deprecating. It's fleeting celebrity."
In person, Goddard is more mischievous than his professional, on-air persona. He shares tales of the time Barnaby was schnockered at a long-ago Woolly Bear Festival and recounts some of the jokes Big Chuck and Lil' John used to tell off-camera.
But Goddard never fools around with the weather. He doesn't pitch a midsummer rainstorm as a sign of the apocalypse. He says he's only suggested once that viewers not leave their homes: the day before the Blizzard of '78. He understands that a city's beloved meteorologist scaring people inside has an economic effect on store traffic and restaurant reservations. But if Dick Goddard ever tells you to hunker down, do it.
Now 80 years old (or 27 Celsius, as Goddard likes to quip), he knows he doesn't have much time left in his career, but Goddard also has no plans to retire. He says his fundraising efforts for dozens of Northeast Ohio animal shelters, which he has supplemented for years with on-air reports featuring dogs that need homes, would suffer. But that doesn't mean he hasn't thought about what he wishes his final on-air words could be.
"To all you people who have been so good to me and who have helped the animals, bless your hearts. I can't thank you enough. For the few of you who have been my harshest critics, let me say this: You want to know what the weather is? Look out the goddamn window."