|Birth: ||Sep. 18, 1942|
|Death: ||Feb. 26, 2008|
TAMPA -- WTSP, Channel 10, is planning a prime-time tribute to Dick Fletcher, the station's weatherman for 28 year, who died this morning after suffering a stroke eight days ago.
Tampa Bay's 10 News, which paid tribute to Fletcher on every newscast today, will air the special at 8 tonight, according to News Director Darren Richards.
He adds that Fletcher's family is considering a public memorial service but plans have not been finalized.
The 65-year-old meteorologist is being remembered by friends and co-workers as a friendly, hardworking, dedicated meteorologist who cared about his family and community.
Fletcher died about 4:30 a.m. at St. Anthony's Hospital in St. Petersburg, said Pete Nikiel, marketing director for the station.
"It was a massive stroke from which he never recovered," Nikiel said.
"Dick was one of the true leaders at our station," said Sam Rosenwasser, President and General Manager of Tampa Bay's 10. "We all learned from him. He made us better. And we will miss him terribly."
WTSP told viewers of his death in a special report at 8:55 this morning and followed with an hour-long tribute at 10 a.m. anchored by Reginald Roundtree and Marty Matthews, two long-time friends of Fletcher's.
"We loved him, and we miss him," said Roundtree, who said he has been trying to block out the pain of the loss.
"He touched tens of thousands of lives," Roundtree told the Tribune. "People trusted every word he said. He was the guy, when it got bad, that you knew was going to be there in the trenches."
Fighting back tears, Roundtree added, "Fletch would often tell me, 'There's an elderly woman somewhere in Madeira Beach whose only connection is the sound of my voice, or there's an elderly couple out there who are relying on me to tell them what to do to be safe, so I've got to be here.' "
"He was the voice of reason, the voice of assurance, and now there isn't just a gap, there is a grand canyon," Roundtree said. "His footsteps will not be filled."
The televised tribute featured an outpouring of affection from WTSP staffers, community leaders such as Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio and even rival meteorologists Paul Dellegatto of WTVT, Channel 13, and Steve Jerve of WFLA, Channel 8.
"I had a lot of respect for Dick as a competitor, but at times like this, competition goes out the window," Jerve said. "We're just here to pay tribute to a great guy and fine meteorologist and someone who had a real connection with Tampa Bay viewers."
Known as "Fletch" to his co-workers, Fletcher was "the calm during the storm" when it came to covering severe weather, says Matthews, who along with several other WTSP employees has posted tributes on the WTSP Web site.
WTSP News Director Darren Richards also posted a tribute: "I'm sure going to miss Fletch. He had a passion for his job that was unmatched. Every day, he showed up for work an hour and a half before his shift started. He loved what he did – a meteorologist's meteorologist."
Morning anchor Ginger Gadsden told viewers that "Fletch was not only loved by his family, but by all of the people in the newsroom."
Fletcher is survived by his wife, Cindy, of St. Petersburg, and three grown children.
Two foundations have been selected by Cindy Fletcher for those who wish to make donations in his memory: The Dick Fletcher Memorial Scholarship Fund at USF, 4202 East Fowler Ave., CPR 107, Tampa FL 33620, and The Dick Fletcher Memorial Fund, The Pinellas Education Foundation, 12090 Starkey Road, Largo FL 33773.
Last week's stroke was Fletcher's second. On Nov. 24, 2003, Fletcher lost control of his eyes and became disoriented just before he was to have appeared on a newscast.
He later said that he didn't know he was having a stroke. "I had missed a lot of the early warning signs," he said after a quick recovery. He was back on the air in less than two weeks.
Since then, he had made numerous public appearances for the cause of stroke survival and prevention.
As a television meteorologist, he was known for his dedication to his craft.
He joined WTSP, Channel 10, in 1980 as chief meteorologist. He distinguished himself in 1985with marathon coverage of Hurricane Elena. The storm pounded the Gulf Coast, and WTSP studios had to be evacuated.
During Hurricane Charley in 2004, the station was evacuated again, and Fletcher had to broadcast out of a makeshift studio with primitive graphics.
He once said that all of the modern weather forecasting technology and computer-generated graphics aren't as important as experience. "All that information is wasted if you don't know what to do with it," he said in a 2005 interview.
Born in Omaha, Neb., in September 1942, Fletcher graduated from the University of Omaha in 1964. He began his broadcasting career in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as a news anchor who occasionally did weather reports.
In the 1970s, he was a meteorologist in Denver, earning the American Meteorological Society seal of approval in 1978. Fletcher studied Broadcast Meteorology at Mississippi State University. He also did advanced studies in the College of Marine Science at the University of South Florida.
He worked at TV stations in Corpus Christi, Texas, and in Omaha before joining ABC affiliate WTSP-TV as chief meteorologist March 17, 1980.
He became known for popular segments in which he would answer weather questions from viewers, called "Weather Whys," and for his "3-degree guarantee forecast."
It was a challenge: If Fletcher missed his 24-hour forecast high for Tampa by more than 3 degrees, he gave a viewer selected at random an autographed Tampa Bay's 10 News umbrella.
If Fletcher's forecast was correct for the entire week, he also gave away an autographed umbrella. His accuracy rate was more than 90 percent.
A sought-after speaker at community events, he was a former member and chairman of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council.
He flew on reconnaissance aircraft missions into three hurricanes and made 15 different penetrations into the eyes of storms.
In 1987, he was honored by the American Meteorological Society with an award for Outstanding Service by a Broadcast Meteorologist.
He was presented the distinguished service award by the national hurricane conference in 2003 for his career leadership efforts in hurricane preparedness. He also received the media award from the governor's hurricane conference in 1993.
In 1997, he was among a select group of meteorologists who met with President Clinton to discuss global warming. He told the Tribune he had been researching the climate change on Florida's Gulf Coast for more than 20 years. He said he found the sea level to be rising.
Fletcher also worked closely with the Pinellas County Coalition for the Homeless, forecasting the need for cold night shelters.
TBO.COM Feb. 26, 2008
Created by: SUSAN HILL DAVIS
Record added: Dec 04, 2010
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