I've been lucky to work with a number of talented people in my 30 plus years in television. One of the greats that I had the good fortune to spend more than half a dozen years with passed away Saturday. Dan Henry was 89.
Dan stands out to me because he was the last of a breed in television news. He was quite simply, a weatherman. He didn't have a meteorology degree, a must in this day and age. The only other non-meteorologist that I worked with that's still doing his think is KSAZ's amazing Dave Munsey in Phoenix, another heavyweight I had the pleasure of producing.
I had been told that in a previous life, before television, Dan had been a science teacher. Even without the meteorology degree, Dan was by far and away the most popular weatherman in Kansas City television and was one of the most popular television talents in the city, period. The guys at Kansas City's National Weather Service loved him.
I'm not going to sugarcoat it. Dan was polarizing for the audience. You either loved him and his quirky sense of humor, or you hated him. But the biggest thing was, everyone knew Dan Henry. I loved Dan because he embraced the changing technology that came to his weather office. First it was the weather computer. Dan, charmingly, tossed his magnet board aside and worked that computer into his shtick, complete with appropriate cartoons.
Dan loved wrapping himself in green in front of the chroma key wall, appearing before the viewers on Halloween as a floating head over a skeleton or some other bit of handywork drawn on the computer. But when severe weather came around, Dan was all business. And the addition of doppler radar, the first in the market by many years, cemented his role as the go to weather guy in Kansas City.
I loved Dan because he knew how to keep me in my place. I produced hundreds of his weathercasts and he knew to the second how much time he should get. If I gypped him one night he'd teach me a lesson by going 30 seconds long, just to remind me who helped pay my salary. And on the night's I needed him to bail me out because of some sort of technical mishap, Dan would always cheerfully come to my rescue.
Dan Henry was an integral part of WDAF's ratings resurrection in the 1980's. He had been with the long suffering, ratings dormant station for more than a dozen years when News Director Mike McDonald executed ratings gold. It was a combination of a great anchor team, Stacy Smith and Cynthia Smith, sports director Frank Boal along with the unflappable Dan, that helped steamroll the competition. When Stacy departed for Pittsburgh, Phil Witt filled his shoes and we never skipped a beat.
Dan is a Kansas City television legend. I'll never forget that smile, his love of all things Irish and his barbershop quartet. He made life in the tough business of television news bearable for dozens of up and coming young journalists, including me. Good bless you Dan Henry.