MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Bud Kraehling, who served as meteorologist for WCCO-TV for 47 years of his five-decades-long career in broadcasting, died Wednesday evening from cancer at the age of 96.
For a lifetime, Minnesotans depended on Kraehling for the weather and for happy talk with his longtime on-air partner, Dave Moore. It was that unscripted banter that provided a level of chemistry that to this day has not been matched.
“You could spend all day prepping a newscast but without fail, the best moments of that newscast were the 30 seconds you holed out around the weather to let Dave Moore and Bud do their thing,” former WCCO managing editor and producer Tom Ziegler said. “Bud was a true pro, such a gentleman. His laidback ‘roll with the flow’ persona that we saw on TV was exactly how he was off camera.”
Kraehling started his broadcasting career in the 1940s, at a radio station in Illinois. After serving in the Philippines during World War II, he came to the Twin Cities and, in 1949, made the switch to television.
Kraehling may never have actually gotten a degree in meteorology, but he dependably brought Minnesotans the weather over the next several decades, watching technology evolve along the way. It wasn’t necessarily the path he planned for himself.
“I just happened into it, weather on TV. I was subbed for a man on vacation, sponsored by Taystee Bread,” Kraehling said. “And I guess I did a better job than he did, so I stayed on.”
He wrote forecasts on the “Weather Window” for crowds gathered outside the studio. Later he worked from the “Shell Weather Tower,” an elaborate set with weather maps, dials and gauges. In 1958, he helped use the first weather radar in the Twin Cities; it was on top of the Foshay Tower.
But all his understanding of technology was matched by his understanding of how people watch TV.
“Bud’s weather forecasts were so simple that you knew what the weather was going to be at the end of it,” Ziegler said. “Bud’s forecasts had some doo-dads but his presentation was so laid back it was like having your best friend tell it.”
GALLERY: Bud Kraehling’s Years At WCCO
Former WCCO colleague Caroline Lowe fondly remembers Kraehling.
“A very kind man who made me feel welcomed from my first day in 1977 as the WCCO newsroom clerk. He always had a twinkle in his eye and smile on his face, truly a ray of sunshine, regardless of what kind of weather he was forecasting that day,” Lowe said. “I loved riding in parades with him because everyone loved Bud, and it felt so special to be part of the WCCO family at those times.”
Former WCCO colleague Mike Fairbourne says Kraehling had something schools don’t teach.
“Bud was a master communicator,” Fairbourne said. “He could relate to people on a personal basis that very few people in broadcasting ever master.”
Former WCCO meteorologist Paul Huttner recalls Kraehling as a very humble man.
“I think that rubbed off a little bit on everyone. I know it did on me,” Huttner said. “You could have a career, be a success and yet still be very, very kind to people.”
Author Julie Kramer said she remembered producing the noon report, with Kraehling on weather duty, and how much of a professional he was.
“He never ran long with the forecast. He could read a wrap and newscast producers appreciated that,” she said. “To me, Bud never seemed to age. He looked 70 whether he was 55 or 95. I hope … someone will come forth with a picture of Bud with hair. I’ve always wondered what he would look like with hair.”
Kramer remembered how people in downtown Minneapolis would constantly be calling out to him on the street.
“He was one of the most recognized TV faces,” she said.
Ziegler said that, having grown up with Kraehling “electronically tucking us into bed each night,” it was a truly “pinch-me moment” to work with the man.
“Here’s a fellow that you grew up admiring and respecting and then you get to work with him for 15 years,” he said. “How lucky am I?”
His easy style, humor and quick wit made him a favorite. Retired WCCO director Roger Nelson worked with Kraehling for 26 years.
“He was a gentle man, which made it easy to be around him and to work with him,” Nelson said. “You could count on him.”
Nelson says Kraehling was a mentor at work and in life. Former WCCO Meteorologist Paul Douglas says Kraehling gave him the best career advice — focus on good storytelling.
“He said, ‘Minnesotans know their weather. If anything, assume they know more than you do,'” Douglas said.
His daughter, Claudia, says her father was an impish man with an enormous heart, and he loved the viewers as much as they loved him.
CCO Chief Meteorologist Chris Schaffer says Kraehling was an originator.
“I don’t know if our generation of broadcasters will be remembered like the greats were,” Shaffer said.
From his black-and-white graphics to the Shell weather tower, Kraehling didn’t need fancy graphics and maps to attract viewers.
Schaffer says Kraehling kept things simple and sincere. Something viewers will always remember about him.
“I loved his simplicity about it, and again, just a gentleman,” Shaffer said.
Kraehling retired in 1996. After that, he kept busy as a greeter at the Minnesota History Center, and also performed at nursing homes. His first wife Natalie died in 1998. He is survived by his four daughters and second wife, Shirley Lockwood.
In 2001, he was inducted into the Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
WEB EXTRA: Interview with Kraehling and the Minnesota Broadcasters Association