Barry ZeVan, whose witty, energetic peek-a-boo forecasting style at KARE 11 and KSTP-TV endeared him to Minnesota weather watchers in the 1970s and 1980s, died Wednesday, family members and friends announced on social media.
“Barry loved his showbiz background and roots,” former colleague Diana Pierce said in announcing his death. “He was proud of his daughters and granddaughters. Rest in peace, Barry. You were … one-of-a-kind and will be fondly remembered.
ZeVan, who was 82, lived in Golden Valley. The cause of his death has not been made public, though he had been treated for chronic lymphocytic leukemia last year.
ZeVan became a Minnesota forecasting icon during two stints in the Twin Cities in which he was billed as “Barry ZeVan, the Weatherman.” He arrived at KSTP in 1970 and rapidly won over viewers. In July 1974, he posted a Nielsen ratings record for a local weather forecast — 51% of the audience — that still stands and likely always will because of the fragmentation of the TV market.
After a short stint in Washington, D.C., where his cornball style was not a hit, he returned to the Twin Cities to work at Ch. 11 (which went from WTCN to WUSA to KARE while he was there). ZeVan retired from full-time broadcasting in 1987.
Most recently, he had been taping a lighthearted weekly weather show on YouTube called “Retro Weather,” featuring some of the antics that made him popular back in his heyday.
He’d stand in front of a map with a black marker sketching in cold fronts, circling storm areas and scribbling temperatures, all the time chatting cheerfully, mixing data with goofy jokes. Most famously, he liked to peek coyishly at his viewers over his shoulder as he chatted.
"He had an infectious, vivacious spirit filled with imagination. Everything he did, he did with panache -- usually wearing his signature white pants," wrote granddaughter Maritsa Georgiou-Hamilton.
His career started in Pittsburgh at just 5 years old, singing on KDKA radio. He acted as a child in New York City and appeared on multiple national broadcasts. He was inducted into the Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame and was a member of the Montana Society of Broadcast Legends.
“Self-degradation is the first law of self-preservation,” he told the Star Tribune’s Jeff Strickler in an interview in June. “Fortunately, laughing at myself has come naturally.”
In his most recent YouTube show, posted Dec. 26, he wore a handsome Nordic sweater and promised to post again soon.
His survivors include his wife, Ellen Hanson-Zevan; daughter Shaunda ZeVan; son-in-law Daryl Lewis; and grandchildren Ryan Lewis, Maritsa Georgiou-Hamilton, Chelsea Ransom and Brady Lewis, and several great-grandchildren.
Staff writer Jeff Strickler contributed to this report.