Herb Clarke, 84, the low-key broadcaster who was a fixture as a weatherman on Philadelphia's Channel 10 newscasts for nearly 40 years, died late Sunday afternoon at Beaumont at Bryn Mawr, a retirement community.
Barbara Clarke, his wife of 56 years, said Mr. Clarke died of complications from Alzheimer's disease.
"The thing with Herb is that he was a regular, down-home guy," said Gerry Wilkinson, a good friend and chairman of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia, an organization devoted to chronicling the region's broadcasting history.
"The friendliness and warmth that came across on TV, that was all real," Wilkinson said.
Mr. Clarke, who retired from his regular weather duties on Channel 10 in 1998, began working at the station almost 40 years before. When he left, Channel 10 was owned by NBC, but for most of Mr. Clarke's career, Channel 10 WCAU-TV was a CBS property.
"He was one of the original generation of TV people," said newsman Larry Kane, who worked with Mr. Clarke for about 15 years at Channel 10.
"I don't think anybody did weather as long as he did in Philadelphia," Kane said. "That is not easy. Night after night, storm after storm. It's a hard thing."
Mr. Clarke, who was born in 1927 in Eden, N.C., served in the Navy during World War II and graduated from Pfeiffer University in North Carolina with an associate degree in arts in 1947. He then entered Bowling Green State University in Ohio, where he majored in journalism and from which he graduated in 1950.
His first job, which he landed during a leave from college, was with radio station WLOE in Leaksville, N.C.
"It was only 100 watts - and it took a good breeze at your back for the signal to go five miles, the sort of place where one did everything, including sweeping up before cutting off the lights at night," he once said.
Mr. Clarke returned to the military during the Korean conflict and then headed to television in Richmond, Va., helping to launch WRVA-TV there. He served as reporter, news anchor, and news director at the station before moving to Philadelphia and WCAU in 1958.
Once in Philadelphia, Mr. Clarke covered health and science, and served as anchor of the Sunday-night news during the 1960s and 1970s.
His coverage of Hurricane Agnes won him the Associated Press State Broadcasters Award for best news reporting in 1972, and he wrote, produced, and reported numerous special news broadcasts for Channel 10.
"When I started doing the weather," Mr. Clarke once said, "it was with chalk on a blackboard. I thought Magic Marker and Plexiglas were miraculous. Then we went to magnets. Then came satellite pictures and computer graphics."
After retiring in 1998, Mr. Clarke filed a daily report for KYW Newsradio on his great passion - gardening. He was heavily involved in promoting the Philadelphia Flower Show, Kane said.
In 1989, Mr. Clarke was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Eastern University in St. Davids. In 2007, he received the Board of Governors Award at the Mid-Atlantic Emmy Awards ceremony.
Mr. Clarke was also active in the Broadcast Pioneers, Wilkinson said. He served as president of the organization in 1988 and 1989 and was chairman of the board in 1990.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Clarke is survived by two sons and a daughter; and two grandchildren. As of Sunday night, a memorial service for Mr. Clarke was planned to be held at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, but details had not yet been worked out.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Alzheimer's Foundation, Delaware Valley Chapter, 399 Market St., Suite 102, Philadelphia 19106; to Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, 625 Montgomery Ave., Bryn Mawr, Pa. 19010; or to a charity of the donor's choice.