The legendary Detroit weatherman who always managed to spread sunshine even when the forecast called for rain, Sonny Eliot, has died.
WWJ reported Friday that family members had confirmed his passing at a home in Farmington Hills. He was 91.
Eliot was an American hero long before he clipped on a microphone, serving on a B-24 bomber in WWII. He was shot down over Germany and spent more than a year as a prisoner of war. He entertained his fellow captives until they were freed.
"In the POW camp, I would write little skits, I would do shows in the camp for morale -- and for my morale as well," Eliot told Local 4 during an interview.
Eliot's professional career began in 1947 after he was called to perform a bit part in a local variety show produced by Detroit's WWJ-TV, now NBC affiliate WDIV. He ended up staying 35years, hosting programs including the 17-year series "At the Zoo" and the annual J.L.Hudson's Thanksgiving Day Parade. He also appeared on children's programs, quiz shows, comedy-variety productions, specials and commercials.
Some listeners endured and others found endearing his fast-paced weathercasts punctuated with hybrid words like "snog"(snow and fog), high temperatures overseas delivered more or less in the local language, predictions of the score of that night's Detroit Red Wings game — without identifying the winner — and one-liners like "It's colder than a former wife's hello."
"Sonny knew his audience, he knew what they expected. Except for the times when the weather seriously mattered, and the jokes were left at the sideline, Sonny knew that's what people wanted to hear," said WWJ radio host Joe Donovan.
Eliot was inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame in 2005. He retired in 2010 from broadcasting.
"Well into his old age, Sonny, when you would talk to this guy, he was always on. You had to have your mind on. The one-liners would just be flying out his mouth," said Local 4 reporter Roger Weber.
Friend and co-worker Don Swindell said anyone who ever met Eliot became instantaneous friends with him.
"It's a sad day. There's something very magical about Sonny," Swindell said.
Survivors include his wife, Annette.
Dorfman Chapel is handling a private service for the family. Details on a public memorial are still pending.