By Mike Roberts
(KSDK) - If you listen to the radio at all you have almost certainly heard his voice and his forecast.
Meteorologist Ben Abell, a fixture on the airwaves in St. Louis for nearly 35 years, will walk away from the microphone on April 27 at the age of 75.
Abell, who was elected to the St. Louis Radio Hall of Fame in 2006, has done stints off and on for private radio stations over the years, but since 1972 he’s been delivering radio forecasts at KWMU, the public radio station at the University of Missouri - St. Louis.
Since 1973 he’s done the same thing for Mind’s Eye, a radio information service for the blind at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Ill. And in all that time, over all those years, he has never charged either organization for his forecasts.
“I see it as part of my service,” said Abell.
That service doesn’t come easily. Abell’s typical radio workday starts at 4:30 a.m. and continues until mid-afternoon. But radio is not his primary occupation.
Though his forecasts air on KWMU at UMSL, Abell is a meteorology professor at Saint Louis University. Arriving in the mid-1950s as a student, Ben stayed on after graduating when a phone call came asking him to teach at SLU.
“My original idea was to go to work for the National Weather Service ... but I started teaching just as a way of helping out and the bug bit me,” said Abell.
Dr. Bill Dannevik, Chairman of the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at SLU, said Abell is a natural as a teacher.
“He has a way of putting himself in their place. He remembers what it was like when he was a student -- the complexities and confusion the student is facing. I think that’s one of the things that makes him so successful as a teacher,” said Dannevik.
Even though Abell leaves the airwaves in St. Louis, he will remain a presence on the SLU campus for another five years as he begins what he calls a “phased retirement.”
“God will retire me when the time comes,” said Abell.
Still many listeners will miss the wise and gentle Ben, as will his radio contemporaries.
KWMU “Morning Edition” host Bob McCabe, who has worked with Abell for almost 20 years, said he didn’t want to think about the first day of work without him.
Neither do the rest of us.