SEATTLE — Harry Wappler, 73, the face of KIRO-TV’s weather coverage for three decades, has died after complications from Crohn’s disease.
Andy Wappler said his father passed away Wednesday at Overlake Hospital Medical Center in Bellevue after suffering a stroke Tuesday night. He had struggled with the disease for years.
Known for his wit and ability to ad-lib on live television, Wappler considered his favorite moments to be the ones when he made people laugh.
“He was sunny, good-humored even when he was talking about another cloudy rainy day,” said his son, who also worked as a KIRO-TV meteorologist. “He so much enjoyed what he did.”
Wappler was born in Park Ridge, Ill. He majored in speech and debate from Northwestern University and earned a graduate degree in theology at Yale Divinity School.
He became an ordained Episcopal minister and directed parishes in Jacksonville, Fla. and Wilmette, Ill. He’d entered the ministry to follow his brother but decided it wasn’t the right fit, Andy Wappler said.
After reading a magazine article about Seattle in 1968, Wappler decided to move his wife and two children to the city.
He didn’t have a job at the time but quickly landed at KIRO in 1969 as an editorial writer. Four months into that stint, the station’s general manager told him, “You look like a weatherman.”
“My dad didn’t know how to take that,” Wappler said.
Over the next three decades, Wappler became one of Seattle’s best known broadcasters, delivering weather reports with a sunny disposition even when the forecast wasn’t.
“People like to be around people who are happy. People were drawn to that in him without knowing why,” his son said.
Wappler left KIRO for a three-year stint at WNBC-TV in New York in the early 1970s but returned to the Seattle station, where he worked until he retired in 2002.
During a one-hour “Farewell, Harry!” special, television newscasters and personalities who worked with Wappler through the years offered their tributes. They included Dan Rather, Aaron Brown, Wayne Cody, Gary Justice, Sandy Hill, J.P. Patches and many other famous faces.
For several years, father and son worked together at KIRO. The younger Wappler did the morning weather report, while his father covered the evening. “It was Wappler all day,” said Andy Wappler, who took over as KIRO’s chief meteorologist after his father retired. Andy Wappler left KIRO in 2008.
“Harry was just a remarkably wonderful person,” said KOMO-TV’s weather man, Steve Pool. “I don’t think that man had a mean bone in his body.”
Wappler said his father was devoted to his wife and loved spending time with her. He also loved muscle cars. “People would be surprised that he had a Corvette and Firebird Trans Am.”
Besides his son, Wappler is survived by another son Bill, of Greenwich, Conn., and five grandchildren. Memorial services are pending.