A Tribute to Joe DeNardo, Pittsburgh Icon, Part Two

Joe-Denardo-Cal-4It was a very rainy that day in May 2011 as I made my way from the (now shuttered) parking garage behind Manderino Library to Morgan Hall. By the time I got there, I was soaked. Ironically, I had forgotten to check the weather forecast and didn’t have an umbrella on the very day I was to meet Pittsburgh’s most iconic weatherman, who had come to speak at California University. But more on that a little bit later…

In last month’s installment, we discussed how Denardo became part of the WTAE Family by the end of the 1960’s, thanks in part to his friend – and legendary Pittsburgh news anchor – Paul Long. As time went on, Denardo and the WTAE staff became familiar and welcome guests on televisions across Pittsburgh.

In promos for “What is talked about during Channel 4 Credits” Denardo and Long traded friendly barbs, as in this exchange where Denardo says to Long, “Your wife called, she wants you to pick up a can of hair spray…it’s for her” (Long was bald) or Long asking about the upcoming forecast, “Joe, will I be able to play golf this weekend?” to which Denardo replied “Probably not, Mr. Long, you could never play golf before.”

When Denardo came to speak at Cal U in 2011, Communications Professor Rick Cumings showed Denardo some of these vintage clips, which an amused Denardo said he hadn’t seen in years.

“You know we teased him,” said Denardo about Long, “But I loved him, he was one of my best friends.” Long passed away in 2002.

Another 1976 promo featured Denardo as a mad scientist in a Frankenstein style laboratory, with a Boris Karloff type voice announcer stating, “There’s something almost frightening about the accuracy of Joe Denardo’s forecasts.” The promo ends with him putting on his coat in the manner Dracula dons his cape.

As we left behind the bellbottoms and Bee Gees of the 1970’s and entered the era of parachute pants and Purple Rain in the 1980’s, billboards started appearing in Pittsburgh, with a black background, in white letters, with three little words…”Joe Said It Would”.

It became iconic familiar phrase in Pittsburgh, meaning if you wanted the most accurate forecast, from sunny skies, to heavy downpours, to snowy skies, Joe Denardo was the man to count on.

According to a June 15 WTAE web article by station reporter Sheldon Ingram, in the mid 1980’s a new charitable cause was created by Pat Roney (widow of late Steelers owner Dan Rooney) and Jeanie Caliguri (wife of late Pittsburgh Mayor Richard Caliguri) which would help provide winter clothing for children and senior citizens across the Pittsburgh area, known as “Project Bundle Up”. WTAE and The Salvation Army teamed up to help, and Joe Denardo helped play a huge part.

In Denardo’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette obituary, Caliguri told writer Marylynne Pitz, “A lot of people lend their name. Joe didn’t lend his name. He was a part of it.” Caliguri went on to explain, “We worked together for 15 to 20 active years. He took children shopping when we went for coats.”

After retiring in 2005, Denardo remained a popular presence in Pittsburgh. In Spring 2011, Denardo came to Cal U’s Morgan Building to speak to students and answer questions, and Yours Truly was fortunate enough to meet him. He couldn’t have been nicer, he posed for a picture with me, and he even autographed a previous weather-related Cal Times article I had written, signing, “Joe said it would: Chuck, Next time don’t forget to bring your umbrella.”

It was a sad day this past June when he passed. A class act, Joe Denardo will be missed.

Story by Chuck Brutz for Pennsylvania Bridges