(WTNH) — People come and go in the news business, but others stay in one place a long time and become entrenched in their community.
Those of you who have been with Action News, News Channel 8, and News 8 over the years got to know a weather guy by the name of Geoff Fox. He was on the air here for 27 years. You saw his passion for the weather, and you got to know his family, and his dog, and his Mom and Dad, Harold and Betty.
Geoff now resides in Irvine, California, with his wife Helaine. We thought you might like to know what he’s been up to lately.
Geoff was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer last July, and has undergone extensive surgery to beat it. To date, he is cancer free, but undergoing treatment to keep cancer at bay.
And he is on air from his garage, yes, his garage doing the weather for the state of Nebraska. Having worked with him for nearly 30 years, I took a trip out to visit him.
Geoff Fox is upbeat, loud, sarcastic, typical Geoff, he looked well and was hungry for pancakes.
After chatting at a diner a good long while, we got into his sporty little coupe and chatted some more, like we always did. He becomes a tour guide for his planned community of Irvine, California.
“All I want to do is have some fun,” Geoff said. “You don’t see them very well, but that’s the loma Ridge in front of us. Those are the foothills of the Santa Ana mountain.”
After a pleasant drive from the diner through the California hills we arrived at Geoff’s humble abode; but then I discovered the parallel-parking situation.
“It’s going to be okay,” Geoff said. “We leave a little tiny space for me, because we no longer have a garage, because there’s a TV studio in there.”
Geoff’s self-built TV studio in the garage is quite impressive. It’s located right off the kitchen. He’s never far from food as he gears up to do his weather forecasts for Nebraska.
When it’s time to go on the air he put a jacket on, takes a couple of steps down into the studio past the Kit-Kat Clock, and goes right to it.
When I asked Geoff what kind of square footage we’re talking about for his studio, he replied, “… Like 40 square feet. Maybe 18 by 18, 20 by 18.
While Geoff was away on a trip, it was his wife Helaine that painted the green screen with the paint color ‘Sparkling Green Apple’, but it doesn’t sparkle.
When I asked Geoff about the bikes in his studio, he immediately joked, “That’s in case I need a quick getaway.”
Geoff had some infamous live shots when he worked at WTNH. When I asked him what is the funniest thing that he has done in his new studio for your viewers in Nebraska, he quickly responded, “I don’t have a horse.”
Speaking of animals, Geoff and Helaine’s rescue dog, Doppler, spends a lot of time in her bed. She only goes into the studio when one of them carries her in.
Anybody who watched Geoff over the years knows that he is a self avowed tech nerd, a geek, which is what has allowed him to do what he is doing on the air here. Before he broadcast the weather for Nebraska, he was on the air in Palm Springs. He’s his own director and time keeper and on-air talent. Part of his equipment includes a device often used by musicians.
“I have this little keyboard, it’s an Ovation launch pad. Musicians use these, and I have programmed little macros, [which are] little small programs that I’ve written that do a variety of things. So if I hit a couple of buttons now I’m set up for my programs that run in southern Nebraska. If I hit these two buttons, then I’m set up for my program which runs in northern Nebraska. And then if I hit my button, the intro will play and then it will slide over and show the weather map and of course I’ll be standing there in the chroma key. I don’t think anyone else does this. This is a one of a kind thing, this is an accomplishment, you know I would like to see other people use this model of what I’ve done, but right now, I mean you need someone who is both comfortable in front of and behind the camera.”
While Geoff is having a ball with his toys in his garage, he’s soulful and reflective about his cancer. He knows he’s lucky to be alive, as 90-percent of those diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer don’t make it.
His cancer was caught early. He had very invasive surgery called ‘The Whipple Procedure‘, which is now followed by aggressive radiation and chemotherapy treatments to kill off any other cancer cells that might be around.
The health center has become Geoff’s home-away-from-home where he receives radiation. When he’s not doing this, he is constantly meeting with his team of doctors.
Like everyone else, Geoff has had highs and lows in his life, but this low is being faced with a lot of hope on his part that he is going to be okay. He had a very close friend die of this same kind of cancer. People have told him that he is in their thoughts, and he is humbled and overwhelmed by that.
“People have said to me, I’ve said a prayer for you, or you’re in my prayers, and when someone says that what that means is in their most private, intimate moments with God, they thought that I was important enough to bring up my name to say a good word.”
Geoff has always been an open book about almost everything in his life, telling the world what he’s doing on his Permanent Record that he has written for about 14 years; and now he includes his cancer journey.
“My cancer story, I sort of wanted to share it because, like it was a very unusual journey for me first of all, there were times during this that I thought I was gonna die. I was never scared of death. I was never afraid of dying, and the reason is that dying doesn’t come at a scheduled time. I think that you sort of ease into dying, or with Pancreatic Cancer, you suffer into dying. I was origianlly scared of all the operations and procedures that I had to have. I went into the hospital feeling great, and I knew that when I came out it would be like I had been in a knife fight with the Hell’s Angels. I mean I have a scar from there to there, and they opened me up and they took out a bunch of stuff that they didn’t put back.”
When I asked Geoff if his cancer diagnosis changed his life at all, he said that it helped him put his life in perspective.
“No it didn’t. You know what it did, it’s funny, it made me realize how happy I was. Isn’t that weird? Here I was maybe going to die, probably going to die, and all I could think of was, you know my life is pretty good.”
Thru the years Geoff has done a lot of zany things on television. One of those moments was when he went flying with the blue angels.
Or singing his forecast on the air…
Geoff was, and is, always looking for a joke, no matter how corny. One time that lead him to a place in Hamden that made headstones.
“I went and said do you guys have any scrap, and said I would like something that says ‘sunny’ on one side, and ‘rain’ on the other, so I could have a forecast that was carved in stone.”
Geoff grew up in Queens, New York, in apartment 5-E, which is displayed proudly in his studio. His parents raised him and his sister there. For years on the air he talked about his loving parents so everybody knew about Harold and Betty. They were married for more than 60 years. He always called them Mommy and Daddy. Betty passed away a few years ago.
I asked Geoff to share what he misses most about his mom.
“I used to call my mom every night on the way home from work and we would talk. As her Alzheimer’s got worse, it became more difficult, and then it was like my mom’s humanity and warmth had been snatched from her. Look at a picture of my Mom, my Mom was a fabulous babe, she really was. My dad is 91, and the most adorable man on the internet.”
Geoff’s Dad, Harold lives in Milwaukee and loves facebook.
“Hello everybody, this is what 91 looks like,” Harold Fox said on Facebook Live. “This is what I want to be, this is what I want to be like at 91…look at this, this is 91, yes this is 91 people, take it or leave it, this is 91.”
Helaine was always content to let Geoff be out front. She never ever wanted to be on the air. She loved being behind the scenes.
Her passion was and is baking. One of her most favorite recipes came from Geoff’s Mom whom she dearly misses.
“[Betty was] A wonderful, wonderful woman, I loved her, I still love her, and it was a recipe for apple crisp. What makes it so special, it just tastes good, it comes out perfectly perfect every single time, and my family likes it and when I entertain people like it and it’s delicious.”
While Helaine is baking these days, Geoff is on the other side of the wall doing the weather.
So what is it about weather that Geoff loves so much?
“Math, math, I love math, I love math. Stuff like this, this sings to me what song does it sing, I don’t know Ann, but I look at this and it talks to me I understand this, this viscerally makes sense to me because I understand the math involved in it, I like charts, I like numbers, I like the fact that I can find the answer.”
When I asked him to tour me around his mission control of weather, which it says right on the front of his desk, he started with a bell.
“I got the bell for Christmas. This is from my wife, though the idea came from my daughter, and it’s because for part of the time when I was recuperating from my surgery I needed help, but this came afterwards so they thought this was symbolic that I would get the bell and I was told that if I ever used it that my wife would kill me. Everything is happening over here, this is what’s called a Tricaster, and it does everything that a control room switcher does except it’s built into a single computer and I control it with either a keyboard or I have a little midi keyboard here or my little clicker and I have to write the program myself.”
When he’s not in the studio, humming birds get his attention. He has a bird feeder attached to a window with suction cups on his living room. He actually calms down enough from time to time to watch them.
A contemplative Geoff will tell you that he is so blessed to have been able to live out his dream, and that was to be on broadcast television, most of that time he spent in Connecticut. He says he is ever grateful for that time.
He and Helaine are enjoying their life on the other coast now, but remember a whole lifetime back east. He told me when he and his family decided to raise money for Pancreatic Cancer research, most of the $6,000 came from folks in Connecticut, he is thankful for that.