Meteorologist Don Woods, 'Gusty' creator, succumbs to cancer
BY STAFF REPORTS
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
6/12/12 at 11:14 PM
Retired meteorologist Don Woods, whose weather-ready cartoon character Gusty was loved by viewers across parts of three states, died Tuesday evening after a battle with cancer, his former employer, KTUL, Channel 8, announced. Woods was 84.
The family is planning a private graveside service, according to the station.
Woods was a professional meteorologist and member of the American Meteorological Society, a rarity for TV weather broadcasting when he joined KTUL in 1954, according to “the official website of Don Woods’ Gusty.” He retired in 1989 after 34 years with the station.
Woods joined the Navy and then worked for the National Weather Service before joining a Hutchinson, Kan., TV station as a meteorologist in 1953.
After joining KTUL the next year, Woods drew Gusty, a caricature of a boy, during every evening’s weather report. At a glance, viewers in parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kansas could tell what the weather was expected to be by what the character was doing or wearing.
One could “see Gusty enjoying a spring frolic in the flowers; Gusty diving into the “Frady Hole” during a stormy day; Gusty dripping wet from a sultry summer afternoon; Gusty raking leaves while glaring at the last leaf still on the tree, or Gusty bundled up for a blue northeastern snowstorm,” according to his website.
And every night, Woods drew the name of a viewer who had written to the station hoping to win an original Gusty drawing.
The character was so popular that in 2005, then-Gov. Brad Henry signed a bill making Gusty the official cartoon of Oklahoma, and the drawing is on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.
Woods developed his talent for drawing while working at the Kansas TV station.
“I couldn’t get a job until I could draw a cartoon,” he told the Tulsa World in 2004, because the previous weatherman at the station had also drawn a character during his time on the air.
“I came back and drew a cartoon, and he hired me. A year later, Channel 8 called and hired me. That began the history of Gusty, which I’ve been drawing ever since.”
At the Kansas station, Woods drew a character named “Windy.”
When he moved to Oklahoma in 1954, the character underwent some changes and took on the new name of “Gusty,” according to the Gusty website.
After he retired from KTUL, Woods taught meteorology at Tulsa Community College, appeared on television commercials and pursued a painting career.
During his career and in retirement, Woods received many awards and recognition. In 1988 he was made an “Honorary Okie From Muskogee.” In 1989 he was named Oklahoma’s Honorary Meteorologist, and in 1993 he received a Pioneer Award from the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters. He was recognized in 2003 as a Tulsa Press Club TV Icon.
Woods’ wife, Jane Woods, died in 2008. He is survived by his children, Stuart, Susan and Kelly.
Former KTUL meteorologist Don Woods draws another "Gusty" at his home in Tulsa on Feb. 28, 2005. Woods, who made the comic character famous on newscasts for decades, died Tuesday at age 84. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World file