FOX 8 meteorologist Dick Goddard, a man with a warm smile, a ferocius intellect, and always a place in his big heart for any animal in need, lived much of his life as a legend in his hometown – yet never forgot his humble beginnings.
Dick’s daughter, Kim, told FOX 8 News her father passed away Tuesday morning at the age of 89.
“I’ve been so lucky,” he said, during a wide-ranging interview in 2015, “and people have been so good to me.”
Born in the Depression, February of 1931, Dick grew up in what was then known as Greenberg – what is now the city of Green in Summit County.
An only child, Dick was the center of attention for his parents – Vachel Goddard, a railroad mechanic from southern Ohio, and the former Doris Dickerhoof.
Dick cherished his parents and learned a lot from them – including a passionate, lifelong love of animals.
“Any animal that showed up on our farm there near Greenberg, I said, ‘Mom, can we keep it?’ and usually it was yes, but the cow I had to give back.”
An amazing football and baseball player in high school, Dick, along with four friends, soon wanted to enlist in the military during the Korean War.
His father objected to Dick joining the Marines, but agreed that his son could enlist in the Air Force.
In the service, Dick would take an aptitude test that would change his life.
“One of the things it said I could become was a meteorologist,” he recalled, “and, even though I couldn’t pronounce it, I said ‘okay.’”
Returning from the service, Dick earned a Fine Arts degree from Kent State.
He was talented enough that Disney asked him to come to Hollywood to interview for a job as an artist.
He chose that path, and it would lead to a legendary career in Cleveland that spanned over half a century. But Dick was the first to tell you that it took him some time to get comfortable on TV.
“When I first started,” he joked, “my voice was so high that small animals gathered outside the station.”
During that time frame, the early to mid 1960s, weather was almost an afterthought on television newscasts.
But Dick Goddard brought something uncommon to the table – as a meteorologist, he was actually qualified to forecast the weather.
And even though he was known for the accuracy of those forecasts, Dick always remained humble about his profession.
“Weather is an educated guess at best,” he said, “and I’m a skeptic.”
Next, he became the statistician for the Browns radio broadcasts – a position he loved and held for 43 years.
And it was his love for his only child, his daughter, Kim, that led Dick to start what was originally just a tiny parade that was created as a PTA fundraiser.
Just a couple hundred people showed up for that first Woollybear parade back in the early 1970s.
Now, more than forty years later, over 100,000 people travel to Vermilion each fall to witness what is now an iconic event.
It has become one of the largest parades in the nation, and the largest outdoor event in Ohio every year.
“I had no idea it would become this big,” Dick said.
The parade and weekend festival focuses on families, fun, and the creatures Dick loved his entire life.
“I promote animal welfare, that’s my goal,” he said, “and before I go to the theme park in the sky, I want to do all I can for the four-footers.”
He spent much of his free time – and a lot of his own money – supporting animal charities across Northeast Ohio.
“They can’t speak for themselves,” he would say, “so we have to speak for them.”
Dick traveled to Columbus many times to lobby state lawmakers to pass what became known as “Goddard’s Law” – a provision that strengthened penalties for people convicted of mistreating animals.
A few years ago, the street in front of FOX 8 was renamed “Dick Goddard Way.”
Dick Goddard will be remembered for a long time in the hometown that he loved so much.
Rest in peace dear legend.