Tonight at approximately 10:22pm central time, Oklahoma City will collectively wipe away tears as we watch the end of something remarkable. The end of a career that spans decades. Tonight we bid farewell to our friend and weatherman Gary England.
Gary isn’t your ordinary weatherman. He didn’t move around the country like many meteorologists do these days, chasing after the dream of landing a big job in a major metropolitan city. Instead, he planted his roots in Oklahoma City and made a name for himself. On May 24, 1973, Gary had the first live cut-in of a “tornado on the ground” in Canadian County. His weather acumen is superior to anyone.
But it isn’t his expert weather forecasting that I will most remember. Nope. What I will remember is the following:
I was a latch key kid in elementary school. I would come home, grab a snack and do the few math problems Mrs. Ticer would assign just before the school day ended. But some afternoons, often in April or May, I would turn on the huge Zenith TV to Channel to 9. Storms were coming – and I wanted to make sure I was OK. I remember hearing this sweet voice coming from the TV that was reminiscent of my Grandpa VanHooser’s voice say “Kids, if you are home alone, listen to me. Stay away from the doors or windows. Go in the hallway or in the center part of the house.” His voice was firm, but always calm. He was reassuring that I wasn’t going to be sucked up like Dorothy and taken to Kansas. Instead, I would hang out in the hallway of our house on Meridian Place, counting the minutes until my mom got home, or when Gary would tell me the storms had passed.
Over the years, Mr. England has made a name for himself nationally. He became the gold standard for how weather should be reported. So much in fact, that he landed a part in a major motion picture. Recently Sam Anderson, reporter for the New York Times, wrote a wonderful piece about Mr. England, dubbing him “The Weather God of Oklahoma City”. The title suits him well.
I’ll miss things like “Jump back Loretta!” (Does anyone know who Loretta is??), “Friday Night in the Big Town” (with the trademark arm motion), and “Get Val on the Getner!” (I’m still not sure what or who the Getner is). But mostly, I’ll miss the sweet smile and reassuring words of a man who has been THE weatherman my entire life. Literally.
Gary England – Oklahoma is a better place because of you. On behalf of all of us, thank you.