Don Kent had a conversational style people could trust when they wanted to know if the day would bring rain or snow or the kind of sunny day that made a weatherman smile.
A meteorologist on radio and television before on-air voices became bland and homogenized, Mr. Kent spoke with an accent that broadcast a life spent in Boston, Quincy, and North Weymouth. And by taking weather seriously in an era when many TV stations turned forecast segments into entertainment, he set standards his successors still follow.
"My gimmick is credibility," he told the Globe in 1980, when he was nearing the end of 34 years forecasting for WBZ radio and TV, his home for most of a career that began in 1937 and ended several years ago.
The dean of broadcast weather forecasting in Boston and New England, Mr. Kent died early today, a little past midnight, in Franklin Regional Hospital in Franklin, N.H., a few miles from his home in nearby Sanbornton. He was 92 and his health had failed since a bout with pneumonia at Christmas.
"Don is a true legend, definitely an icon and a pioneer for all meteorologists, including myself, who followed him," said Harvey Leonard, co-chief meteorologist for WCVB TV, Channel 5. "He set the trend and the bar for professional television weathercasting in New England."
Beginning in 1937, Mr. Kent delivered weather forecasts on radio and TV stations in and around Boston and on Cape Cod until seven years ago. He got his start even earlier, though, when he persuaded his third-grade teacher in Wollaston to let him scrawl his weather predictions on the blackboard in the mid-1920s.
When Mr. Kent began working in television, his studio tools for delivering the weather forecast hearkened to third grade: a map, chalkboards, and his own folksy voice.
"His words won me over," Barry Burbank, meteorologist for WBZ TV, Channel 4, wrote on the station's website as he reminisced about watching Mr. Kent in the late 1950s and '60s. "No matter what the weather, his presentations were always upbeat and 'zesty,' not zany. Besides his forecast reasoning, he included tidbits on a range of topics like the maple sap run, cranberry bog temperature, and ice boating conditions, which he compiled via the ham radio operators of the New England Radio Weather Net."
Growing up in the Wollaston section of Quincy, Mr. Kent considered it a special treat when his mother brought him to meet E.B. Rideout, the legendary forecaster at WEEI radio.
"That was the biggest thrill I got each year," Mr. Kent told the Boston Traveler in 1955.
He graduated from North Quincy High School in 1935 and landed his first radio time on WMEX for "no pay, not even carfare," he told the Globe in 1980.
During World War II, he was in the Coast Guard and became a commissioned officer, serving as a meteorologist.
Back home afterward, when WJDA began operating in Quincy, Mr. Kent contributed forecasts -- not at the station, but from the Quincy building where he and his brother, Roger, sold carpets. Kent's Carpetland burned down in 1994, several years after Roger Kent of North Weymouth sold the business, and Don Kent Park now occupies the site overlooking Wollaston Beach.
In 1951, Mr. Kent moved to WBZ radio, and while keeping his voice on that station, also became the weatherman on WBZ TV a few years later. He retired from Channel 4 in 1983, and from WBZ radio in 1985, but not from the business. Mr. Kent worked at WHDH radio for a while, then worked for several radio stations, most recently at WQRC in Hyannis, where he contributed forecasts until about 2003.
Though he never graduated from college, Mr. Kent took courses in meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and studied advertising at Boston University. "Those were to help me sell the weather," he told the Boston Traveler in 1955.
No one had to sell the weather to him, however.
"All I ever wanted to talk about as a kid was the weather," he told the Globe in 1980.
The only person weather-wary commuters wanted to listen to was Mr. Kent, particularly when serious storms loomed.
On Feb. 6, 1978, the day of the historic Blizzard of '78, he arrived at WBZ at 5 a.m. to follow the progress of a storm he had been tracking for four days.
"The producers kept saying, 'Hey Kent, how much are we going to get?' " he told the Globe in 2003. "I could only say it was the biggest storm I'd ever seen. At 11 o'clock, I went on the air and said, 'This storm is going to be measured in feet, not inches.' By 7 o'clock on, it was like a whiteout."
Decades later, when his voice could only be heard on a few smaller stations, Mr. Kent's credibility remained intact.
"Even today, if the forecast goes wrong, what I'll usually hear from a person who was around when Don was doing his thing is, 'If Don Kent was doing the forecast, he would have gotten it right,' " Leonard said.
One reason Mr. Kent was correct so often was that he loved weather and loved being out in the weather. In the days before Doppler radar, he insisted on an office with a window so he could keep track of the unfolding weather. Retired and living in Sanbornton, N.H., he was still out in the woods with a chainsaw cutting firewood at 90.
He also spent years working with the Crotched Mountain school and rehabilitation center in Greenfield, N.H., which provides services and schooling for children with disabilities.
"Most people knew him as the weatherman, and of course we knew him as a father and husband and family man," said his son Doug of Weymouth. "Probably the only thing he loved more than the weather was my mother."
Mr. Kent married Miriam Hanson in 1942, and told the Traveler that he owed even his marriage to his career as a weather forecaster, which at times led to speaking engagements.
"Weather gave me my wife, too," he said in the 1955 interview. "I met her while addressing a church group."
In 2007, Mr. Kent was honored at a luncheon as part of the first class of inductees to the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame, a group that included radio legends Jess Cain and Fred B. Cole, along with the Bob and Ray comedy team, Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding.
"I want to go out of this business known as the most credible weatherman, Mr. Kent told the Globe in 1982, as he approached a retirement that he ended up putting off for more than two decades. When he signed off for good, he had been telling listeners and viewers what weather to expect for nearly 70 years.
In a 1980 Globe interview, he recounted the advice he received as a boy from his hero E.B. Rideout, who was better at predicting the weather than he was forecasting Mr. Kent's career as a weatherman.
"He told me to keep my interest as a hobby," Mr. Kent recalled. "He said there was no future in it."
In addition to his wife, son, and brother, Mr. Kent leaves two sons, David of Sanbornton, N.H., and Jeffrey of Weymouth; a daughter, Nancy Cotter of Weymouth; and two grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on March 13 in Congregational Church of Laconia in Laconia, N.H.
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