Longtime Chicago meteorologist was at ABC 7, WMAQ-TV and WMAQ-AM
After the sudden death of WMAQ-TV anchor Dick Johnson over a month ago, Chicago television viewers are yet again mourning the loss of another television personality – this time is retired meteorologist Jerry Taft, who exited ABC 7 (WLS-TV) in January 2018 after 33 years at the station.
Taft died peacefully at his home in Naples, Fla. Friday at the age of 77. Although the cause of death is yet to be determined, Taft has suffered from health issues over the last few years.
Long time colleagues and viewers paid their condolences on Twitter, including one from Mayor Lightfoot.
We laughed til we cried . Now just crying pic.twitter.com/2nHNbogfVd— MARK GIANGRECO (@mark_giangreco) July 24, 2020
Such sad news today on the passing of Jerry Taft, one of the greatest! So fortunate I got to work beside him & get to know him. I know he touched so many lives across Chicago. Sending all my love to his family & may Jerry rest in Love & Laughter. We’ll always remember your laugh~ pic.twitter.com/weGGeXl53n— Cheryl Scott (@CherylScottWX) July 24, 2020
Jerry Taft was the definition of a class act. His love for meteorology and passion for our city always shined through. My deepest condolences to Jerry's entire family and everyone at @ABC7Chicago. https://t.co/lJf32rJXZJ— Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot (@chicagosmayor) July 24, 2020
In a statement, ABC 7 general manager John Idler said: “Jerry Taft was an exceptional meteorologist and the face of ABC 7 weather for more than three decades. He was loved by Chicagoans and all of us here at the station. Jerry taught us all the value of being able to laugh at yourself. He will be truly missed and we send out heartfelt sympathies to his entire family.”
Taft was a captain in the air force and he got his start in television in an unusual way – local weatherman Maclovio Perez of NBC affiliate KMOL-TV in San Antonio (since reverted back to the station’s original call letters of WOAI) boarded a flight with Taft as a publicity flight for the military and wound up getting hired.
In 1977, Taft arrived in Chicago at NBC’s WMAQ and also appeared on the then-sister station AM 670 where he was part of the “Good Morning Guys”, providing weather reports. In 1984, Taft jumped to ABC 7 and became part of a news team who would soar from a distant third in the local news race to top dog two years later and helped shape what became one of the most ratings-dominant television stations in the country.
Taft’s fun persona made him a fan favorite among Chicago TV viewers and never took himself seriously. But he also did his job terrifically, becoming one of the most trusted meteorologists in Chicago, with WGN’s Tom Skilling.
After his long run, Taft signed off in two-and-a-half years ago as the longtime resident of southwest suburban Lemont relocated to Florida to retire, where he played golf and even took a part-time job at an Uber driver. At the time of his retirement, ABC 7 colleague Alan Krashesky noted “One of the things that makes him so approachable is the fact that he doesn’t take himself seriously, he’s taking what he does professionally seriously, never himself.”
Taft is survived by with wife Shana, three children, and five grandchildren. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, no funeral services are being held.