As Broadcast Pioneer Dave Roberts prepares to call it a career I simply cannot express in words the thanks I owe to this man who, especially in the early days of my career, was always just a phone call away with advice, support and a positive attitude that was nothing short of contagious.
I first met Dave in January of 1987 when I became an intern in the sports department of WPVI-TV, he made a point to go out of his way to say hello and strike up a conversation with the quiet but inquisitive Temple University student, just overwhelmed by actually being in this place he had daily watched his whole life.
It was actually the night the above picture outside was taken. I brought my camera into the station that day and while taking a picture of Dave he asked me to help build a snowman in between his weather hits. I was ecstatic to help and even more happy to capture the end result on film.
When I took my first job at KQTV in St. Joseph, Missouri, Dave was one of the first I called and when I returned on my first vacation home from St. Joe, Dave was one of the first I visited.
Tape in hand he sat down with me and one by one went over a handful of my first stories.
Looking back on them today they were absolutely brutal but not to Dave, he let me know everything that I was doing right and what I might want to try differently. Note it’s not what I was doing wrong, you see Dave always stressed the positive. He might say ‘that was good but next time why don’t you try it this way.’
Before long I was home from Missouri working as the 11 p.m. anchor at WMGM-TV in Atlantic City and one of the ways that was great for me was the fact Dave was now just up the Expressway and believe me I took advantage of that.
After four years at the shore I was offered a job at WNEP-TV in Scranton. As I drove back to the shore from the interview after accepting the job the first stop I made was WPVI, I couldn’t wait to tell Dave. I would now be working with Nolan Johannes, who together with Dave, helped shape Buffalo television at WKBW-TV.
Dave was as proud as a father at that and even more so when I was named to replace Nolan as 11 p.m. anchor when he announced his retirement. The positive reinforcement was always there and before long Dave wasn’t just singing my praises to me but to his bosses and trying to get me a job at Channel 6.
That was something though that never happened and from WNEP I retraced Dave’s footsteps to Buffalo when I joined WKBW-TV as morning anchor. I was there about a year and a half when Dave was inducted into the Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame. During his time there Dave Thomas, as he was known, became a household fixture for kids in Western New York and Southern Ontario for his role on Rocketship 7.
Many in Buffalo knew Dave but there was nobody else that I was going to let do the story on his return and honor.
This was that story.
After all the accolades Dave will be remembered by most for his work in television, I will remember him though for the person he was off the air. Anyone who likely ever received a card or letter from him had included on it the same smiley face that appeared nightly on his hand drawn weather clouds. That was just the positive attitude of the man, there’s no question to him the glass was always more than half full.
A favorite memory for me was one Friday night when I was an intern and my father came to pick me up. My mother was out of town and my Dad, who had to rise early for work during the week didn’t have to get up the next day so I asked him if he wanted to come in to sit in on a newscast. Jim Gardner and Don Tollefson couldn’t have been nicer to him but it was Dave who came over and made a fuss over my Dad telling him how proud he must be. My Dad sat there that night with a smile a mile wide. Years later Dave would still ask ‘how’s your Dad?’ And when my parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary Dave was one of the first to step up and send me a video greeting which I included in a special video I put together for them.
The best Dave Roberts story I heard isn’t one that involved me. It came, oddly enough, from the funeral of a very good friend’s mother. In a eulogy her daughter told the story of a Birthday card she once received.
Her mother it seems was writing out the card while watching Dave’s weather one night. Well instead of signing it “Love Mom & Dad” she accidentally signed it “Love Mom & Dave.”
Like so many Dave was like a member of their family and I’ve been so very proud to count him in an extended way as a member of mine. And retirement to me Dave means your just easier to reach when I need some advice!