Craft: Forecast: Part-Lee cloudy now

2011-10-20T07:00:00Z 2011-10-21T10:33:54Z Craft: Forecast: Part-Lee cloudy nowBy Dan Craft |
October 20, 2011 7:00 am  • 

A little bit of the sun will be going out of our skies now that WEEK's Lee Ranson is hanging up the magnetic weather markers.

Actually, those artifacts of the TV weatherman's profession were put up on the shelf years ago: Technology evolved, and quaintly practical effects like magnetized raindrops succumbed to ever-evolving degrees of video sophistication.

One of our prized local news memories occurred growing up in Decatur, where our own lifer weatherman, Loren "Boats" Boatman, suddenly was confronted with de-magnetized clouds and storm fronts on a fateful 10 p.m. newscast.

As one icon went up, another dropped to the concrete station floor with a "clack!"

Boats, who was a high school teacher by day, was unfazed: no falling sun could match the low pressure area of a surly sophomore at 2 p.m. on a hot spring day.

He pinned the sun to the map with a finger and assured us it would remain there, and over our heads, for the weekend at hand.

Talking to Ranson, who has magnets in his past, a similar unfazed fair-weather sense comes through, as it always has, courtesy his everyman demeanor.

He's the fellow next door mowing his lawn on a summer day that you lean over the hedge and say "hey" to -- and then shoot the breeze for another fly-by 20 minutes.

Though he's staring down 70, Ranson admits even he notices nothing much has changed since his first forecast in 1971 (an emergency gig that yanked him from the sports desk at Channel 19 after star weatherman Rollie Keith took ill; Lee never returned to the bottom of the ninth).

"It's funny," the Peoria native muses. "I've been going over a lot of old videotapes and, really, when I watch those tapes and then watch one from last week -- outside of the appearance, I think it I've stayed pretty much the same. My manner hasn't changed. I have the same voice."

Thank goodness: There's been something reassuring in Ranson's unyieldingly upbeat boyishness. Weather patterns may come and go, along with the latest crop of career-minded young tele-journalists -- but his ageless optimism has endured.

"I really doubt we'll see this again," he agrees as he signs off on a half-century run that includes a long '60s stint as radio DJ ("I was the Dick Biondi of Peoria!" he chuckles).

"Now we get a lot of new people who come through, and they stay two or three years, then move on. I think the idea of the local person born and raised in a market -- like me, and Rollie, and Houlie (the late Bill Houlihan, dean of Peoria weathermen) -- is over."

Happily, the long-range forecast is fair for Ranson: he and his wife plan to travel and see things they haven't had time to in the past. "I've never been to the Lincoln Museum, can you believe it?" he marvels.

He confesses he gets no kick from hurricanes, or worse, unlike some of his hopped-up Weather Channel brethren.

"I've never been a panic-driven weatherman," says the one-time CB buff whose handle was Mr. Sunshine. "I'd much prefer to say, 'there's going to be a storm, and then it will be sunny.'"

We'd prefer that he'd keep doing just that, indefinitely ... but life, like a weather front, moves on.

So enjoy the rays, Lee.

Dan Craft is Pantagraph entertainment editor. He can be reached at 309-829-9000, ext. 259 or via email at

Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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