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Published: Thursday, 5/31/2012

Merle G. Kachenmeister, 1930-2012: Meteorologist among 1st on Toledo stations

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Merle Kachenmeister Merle Kachenmeister
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Merle G. Kachenmeister, a meteorologist with a distinguished National Weather Service career whose folksy expressions, offered with a broad smile during weekend TV weathercasts, won over viewers, died Tuesday in the care of Hospice of Northwest Ohio. He was 82.

He lived most recently in Blissfield, Mich. His family did not report a cause of death.

He retired in the 1990s from WTOL-TV, Channel 11, where he became a weekend regular in the late 1980s. Before that, he was a fill-in weathercaster for what is now WNWO-TV, Channel 24.

He first appeared to viewers in 1982 on WTVG-TV, Channel 13. He'd retired three years earlier from the weather service and was "bored to death," he told The Blade in 1992. He was one of the first meteorologists on Toledo television, following Charles Merlin Umpenhour at Channel 11 and Stan Stachak, whom Mr. Kachenmeister joined at Channel 13.

"He was folksy and developed somewhat of a cult following," said Mr. Stachak, recently retired as Channel 13 chief meteorologist.

He might report that a rainy spell ahead would be a "gully washer" or "frog strangler."

"He was not your typical weather person. He was Merle," Mr. Stachak said.

A Bowling Green State University fraternity invited him to a event. He came prepared to give a slide show about the weather. "But when I asked them where I was supposed to set my stuff up, they said, 'No, no. You don't understand. At this party, you are the guest of honor,'" Mr. Kachenmeister told The Blade in 1984. "And danged if we didn't have a beer party complete with dancing with one of the school's sororities."

Bright lights and public attention followed decades behind the scenes. In 1974, he was awarded a bronze service medal from the U.S. Department of Commerce for organizing a network of volunteer amateur radio operators -- Skywarn -- to inform the weather service of severe conditions. The network was put together after the devastation of the Palm Sunday tornado, April 11, 1965. He was a ham himself and was a former Toledo Radio Club amateur radio operator of the year.

After a stint as a Navy firefighter in Tillamook, Ore., he learned meteorology and worked with Navy fleet weather stations in Seattle and on Guam.

After returning to his native Toledo afterward, he took up forecasting for the Naval Air Station at Grosse Ile, Mich., and worked for a University of Michigan research center at Willow Run. He was hired by the then-U.S. Weather Bureau in 1959 and was based at Toledo Express Airport.

In 2002, he and his wife, Joanne, were among 24 couples recognized in Columbus by Ohio's then-First Lady Hope Taft for longevity in volunteer service and marriage. The Kachenmeisters were then commemorating 51 years of marriage.

"When I asked her to marry me, I said, 'I'm not the best in the world, but will you have me anyway?'" Mr. Kachenmeister told The Blade in 2002. "I couldn't believe it; she said yes. She's been my best friend all the way."

The couple volunteered for the Kidney Foundation. He formerly was on the board of the Chester Zablocki Senior Center in Toledo.

Surviving are his wife, Joanne; daughter, Debora Handy; three grandchildren; three step-grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.

There will be no visitation or services. Arrangements are by Merkle Funeral Service, Erie, Mich.

The family suggests tributes to Hospice of Northwest Ohio.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.



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