METEOROLOGIST JERRY TAFT DIES IN HIS SLEEP AT AGE 77
Jerry Taft was a household name in Chicago, a beloved meteorologist for more than 40 years, with 33 of those years at ABC 7-Chicago.
Even more so than his love for the weather, always staying up to date on the latest technology, Mr. Taft’s colleagues and friends will remember him for his sense of humor and one-of-a-kind laugh.
“We used to tease him and say it was a squeaky giggle,” said Ron Magers, 75, who worked with Mr. Taft for much of his career. “What people usually heard was him trying to stifle it because he was really cracking up on the air.”
Mr. Taft died in his sleep Thursday night. He was 77.
Meteorology came as a second career for Mr. Taft, after serving in the Air Force, including a stint in Vietnam. He could have stayed in the Air Force and gone on to have a comfortable retirement, but Magers said when Mr. Taft set his mind to something — even becoming a television weatherman — he did it. He was “guided by his own inner feelings,” Magers said.
After an initial television stint in San Antonio, Mr. Taft moved to Chicago to work for WMAQ, Chicago’s NBC affiliate. He switched over to ABC 7 after seven years, where he spent the remainder of his career, and he was also the Sun-Times meteorologist for a time.
ABC 7 meteorologist Larry Mowry said he’ll always remember the stories Mr. Taft told in the weather center. He’d reminisce on the old days in TV news, flying in Vietnam and meeting baseball star Mickey Mantle, Mowry said in an email.
“I’ll never forget him telling me, ‘It’s about the connection,’” Mowry said. “The connection to the viewers and the connection to your coworkers. You can’t fake that.”
ABC 7 reporter Roz Varon met Mr. Taft when she was a senior at Columbia College, doing promotions for a country radio station at the time. Varon said Mr. Taft was “already a legend” in 1980, but after just a couple of minutes talking with him, Varon realized there was nothing to be intimated about.
Less than a decade later, Varon found herself working with Mr. Taft, who answered any of her questions about working on television and never made her feel nervous. He’d remind her that “this isn’t brain surgery — it’s TV news,” Varon said, and if something went wrong while delivering the news, she should not dwell on it.
Still, Varon said Mr. Taft took his work seriously. He knew his craft well and stayed on the cutting edge of weather-related technology, but he would deliver information in a way that wasn’t pretentious, she said.
“He was one of the good ones,” Varon said. “He’s going to be missed by a lot of people. They don’t make them like that anymore.”
On and off the camera, good humor and contagious laughter followed Mr. Taft, his coworkers said. When he was the butt of the joke often marked the times Mr. Taft laughed the hardest, Varon said.
He taught everyone at ABC 7 the value of being able to laugh at themselves, John Idler, the station’s president and general manager, said in a statement. Mayor Lori Lightfoot called Mr. Taft a “class act” in a tweet.
Mr. Taft gave his time to Chicago charities, and he’d always engage with viewers when he made public appearances, said ABC 7 meteorologist Tracy Butler.
When a thought popped into Mr. Taft’s mind, he couldn’t help but say it, Magers said, making him one of the most honest people Magers
“What you saw with the Jerry on the air every day was the real Jerry,” Magers said. “He was very genuine.”
Magers and Mr. Taft would often escape between newscasts to grab a quick, and often unhealthy, bite to eat. Those quiet moments, talking about family or friends, are memories Magers will hold on to, he said. The pair would also frequent the golf course — Magers said Mr. Taft scored eight or nine holes-in-one over his lifetime, including three while Magers was with him.
Mr. Taft retired in January 2018 to spend more time with family and on the golf course, passing the cold, winter months near Naples, Florida. He dabbled in crock pot cooking and occasionally worked as an Uber driver.
“His life could’ve been a best-selling novel,” said Mark Giangreco, an ABC 7 sports anchor and longtime friend of Mr. Taft’s. “We laughed so hard together we cried. That’s what I’ll miss the most.”
Mr. Taft is survived by his wife, Shana, and children Skylar, Storm, Dana and Jay.
WASHINGTON — Safety regulators issued an emergency order directing airlines to inspect and if necessary replace a critical engine part on popular Boeing 737 jets after four reports of engines shutting down during flights.
The Federal Aviation Administration said Friday that its order affected about 2,000 twin-engine passenger jets in the United States.
The FAA said operators must inspect any 737 that has been parked for at least seven days or been flown fewer than 11 times since being returned to service. That’s because of reports that certain engine valves can become stuck in the open position.
Corrosion of the valves on both engines could lead to a complete loss of power without the ability to restart the engines, forcing pilots to land somewhere other than an airport, the FAA said in the order, dated Thursday.
Chicago-based Boeing Co. said that with planes being stored or used less often during the coronavirus pandemic, “the valve can be more susceptible to corrosion.” The company said it is providing inspection and parts-replacement help to airplane owners.
The FAA did not provide details about the four cases of engine shutdowns.
Colleagues say Jerry Taft, a meteorologist for 33 years at ABC 7-Chicago, had a one-of-a-kind laugh.