Last Sunday, a respected colleague passed away. Ken Reeves, whose full title was Expert Senior Meteorologist, Vice President and General Manager of AccuWeather, Inc. Television Network, was doing work on the roof of his home. He fell from the roof, was taken to the hospital, but he did not make it. He was 50.
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Shortly before I left high school, Jeff Lawson, now the Chief Meteorologist at WVEC in Hampton Roads, warned me that AccuWeather, a private weather firm, was a meteorological "boot camp."
Undaunted, during my senior year at Penn State, I took a part time forecasting job there, which at the time, was only a few blocks from campus. AccuWeather was my first paid forecasting job, and I was initially intimidated by many of the meteorologists there. After all, several were veterans who had been there since the company's birth in the 1960s, and others were certain to let you know your place in the hierarchy. This was the environment in which I met Ken Reeves.
Ken, however, without exception, was welcoming of me in my role there.
He was only eight years older than me, and he held a youthful disposition and fresh outlook. He projected confidence without being cocky. As a result, he was the first one I would go to with a question, whether it was operational, geographical, or meteorological.
And he never made me feel like I was some annoying kid from the outside.
AccuWeather was unlike any weather operation I had seen, and it enlightened me early in my career to just how different the rules are compared to the public sector. It was eclectic, spontaneous, loud, and occasionally argumentative. Jeff's boot camp analogy was more fitting that I realized.
Personalities clashed and words were exchanged. Ken was not immune to that. But Ken was old school in a very important way. You could have a heated argument with him about the phasing of short waves, the end game of a tropical cyclone, or how bad a snowstorm would be. But when the shift ended, you could still head out to the pub with him, talk football, have a beer, and share a laugh.
AccuWeather is a polarizing name in the meteorological enterprise.
Some love it. Some hate it. Ken understood that. But more than anyone else I met there, he was a tremendous ambassador for his company. He was visibly proud of his company without blindly towing a company line.
I left in 1992 to finish my graduate degree. Later, I became a Beltway Bandit for a year before taking my first on-air meteorology job in the fall of 1995. I never forgot that motley group of meteorologists at AccuWeather (some had nicknames… Nimble, Mask, Rabbi), but I was convinced I never made much of an impression on them.
Except Ken. I would periodically see him at weather conferences, and we would always make time to catch up. The last time was in San Antonio in 2007. After sessions ended, we met up with several others at a piano bar along the Riverwalk (photo). His smile and boisterous laugh had not changed.
Although I had a few college classmates join AccuWeather shortly before I left, Ken was the only regular link I had to that time I first walked through AccuWeather's doors on West College Avenue in the summer of 1990.
Because of his position with the company and its proximity to Penn State, he impacted numerous Penn State meteorologists over the last 20 years. His presence and perspective will be sorely missed. You may not have heard of him, but it is not an overstatement to say that this is a substantial loss for the entire operational meteorology community.
AccuWeather has put together a video tribute to Ken. You can watch it here.