Obituaries

Dick Albert, who charmed TV viewers with weather forecasts, dies at 73

Mr. Albert with former Channel 5 coanchors Chet Curtis (left) and Natalie Jacobson in 2009, at his retirement party.
Bill Brett for The Boston Globe/File
Mr. Albert with former Channel 5 coanchors Chet Curtis (left) and Natalie Jacobson in 2009, at his retirement party.

When Dick Albert was chief meteorologist on Boston’s Channel 5, he liked to illustrate the next day’s weather with acronyms he’d make up for the weather map. “ ‘WOW’ is what I’m calling it,” he said, fingers grazing those capital letters on his last broadcast, “the ‘winds of warmth’ for tomorrow from the south and the southwest.”

Anyone who had tried to map out his life’s work when he was a boy growing up in Newton might have settled on this prediction: He was born to forecast.

Mr. Albert, who was 73 when he died Friday, always had his head in the clouds – and the blizzards and hurricanes and nor’easters that blew through. “We don’t live in fear of the great storms. We respect them,” he told viewers.

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“Rumor has it that Dick Albert was born with a barometer in his hand,” said Harvey Leonard, his meteorology colleague on WCVB-TV, when Mr. Albert signed off for the last time in February 2009.

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That may be legend, but this much is true: While Mr. Albert was in high school, his father bought him an anemometer to measure the speed of the wind. By then, he was an old hand at recording what was happening outside.

“He was always watching how much it snowed,” said his younger brother Alan of Dedham. “When we were kids, he would send me out with a ruler and a yardstick and say, ‘Alan, see how much snow there is. Measure it in several spots.’ ”

During Mr. Albert’s 31 years at WCVB, viewers were drawn by that lifelong devotion to accuracy, and stayed because of his personality. Fondly known as Dickie, his easy charm and ever-present smile never faded, even when he went outside to bring viewers face-to-face with the forecast. A hot day might find him riding a whitewater raft. During storms, he brought his audience to the beach to experience the pounding surf. To illuminate the cold, he’d head to New Hampshire’s Mount Washington, where he shouted from behind a full face mask: “The temperature’s 10 below, winds gusting to hurricane force.”

Returning home from work after a late night during a blizzard, Mr. Albert would wake his sons to stroll through the still-falling snow. “Every winter storm was an opportunity for excitement, and he shared that really profound joy,” said his son Marc of Sudbury. “All of us couldn’t help but become sort of amateur weather nuts in his family.”

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As an aspiring forecaster, Mr. Albert ordered meteorology maps that arrived weekly by mail at his boyhood home. He’d lay them out on the floor “and essentially practice his craft before it was his profession,” Marc said.

Mr. Albert’s career stretched from interpreting limited information from satellites to today’s complex data. In his early TV days, “we tacked up two cardboard maps, and I remember drawing with either crayons or these magic markers,” he said in 1992. By the end, he was forecasting in front of a blank green screen, upon which computers generated graphics that showed Greater Boston, New England, or the nation.

His reign as the go-to guy for accurate forecasts — Television/Radio Age magazine said he was voted the second most popular weathercaster in the country in 1987 — included the last years before weather apps on phones made watching the TV meteorologist a less-pressing appointment. During his career, though, if viewers wanted to make picnic plans the next day, Mr. Albert was the weatherman to trust.

Richard Edward Albert was the third of five sons born to Sam Albert and the former Phyllis Friedman. His father sold insurance and was a published poet, who passed along his love of fun and wordplay.

The charm that drew viewers was there from the start, said Mr. Albert’s brother David of Wareham. “His character was always sterling,” he said. “You’d smile when you thought of him. You’d look forward to seeing him.”

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Mr. Albert was in his high school meteorology club in Newton, and then went to the University of Michigan, from which he received a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in meteorology. Between degrees, he was an Air Force captain, serving as a meteorologist in Montana, California, and South Korea.

While a Michigan undergrad, he met Mary Ann Plato, whom he married in 1967. Mr. Albert “was the love of my life and my best friend,” she said.

“We had a 52-year love story,” she added. “From the moment we met, we just knew and we were forever connected. We laughed, we cried, we sang, we danced — we had so much fun together. We loved being parents and grandparents. Family always came first but the weather was always with us. We met in a snowstorm and got married in a blizzard.”

They celebrated their 50th anniversary not long ago. “The thing we most looked forward to every day was seeing each other,” she said. “We were each other’s everything.”

“Rumor has it that Dick Albert was born with a barometer in his hand,” said Harvey Leonard (with Albert in 2002).
Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff/File
“Rumor has it that Dick Albert was born with a barometer in his hand,” said Harvey Leonard (with Albert in 2002).

Mr. Albert was chief meteorologist at KOB-TV in Albuquerque, KRON-TV in San Francisco, and KOA-TV in Denver before returning to Greater Boston and WCVB. He arrived in the months after the Blizzard of 1978, and later presented programs on the storm’s major anniversaries. Always ready to step out of the studio, he was a regular guest of schools and organizations over the years, visiting a senior group about a month ago. His “Albert’s Almanac” offered fun facts and quizzes on broadcasts, and he hosted “Use Your Smarts” specials for children.

Inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2012, Mr. Albert received Emmy Awards and a Silver Circle Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

He and his wife lived in Boston and had a second home in Biddeford, Maine, where their family played bocce on the beach, the tide constantly reshaping the playing surface. He also painted landscapes and portraits, and was a dedicated fan of Boston’s sports teams, texting play-by-play reactions with his other son, Matt, who lives in Oakland, Calif.

“He was a beautiful man and a wonderful father, and he taught me how to be a father to my kids,” Matt said. “His passion for life and his love for all of us were amazing.”

No public service is planned for Mr. Albert, who in addition to his wife, two sons, and two brothers leaves another brother, Bernie, and four grandchildren.

Mr. Albert, who died of complications from pneumonia, was diagnosed 22 years ago with a chronic form of leukemia. Even in illness, he informed others. A bout with tuberculosis in the past became a teaching case for students, and he participated in an experimental trial that was published in a medical journal.

“As with many patients, and Dick was no exception, it was actually fun to take care of him — it was an honor to take care of him,” said Dr. Richard Stone, who is chief of staff and director of the adult leukemia program at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and who was among Mr. Albert’s fans and viewers. “He was a combination of laid-back and intensely interested in all the medical things.”

When the weather turned rough, though, he was eager to be back in his element. “If there was a storm, you couldn’t stop him,” Alan said. “He’d put on his raincoat and scoot outside. Any activity with the weather, he wanted to be a part of it.”

Bryan Marquard can be reached at bmarquard@globe.com.