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Friends recall warmth, personal touch of former WFLA meteorologist David Grant

Television news can be a tough business, especially at the local level, where outsized anchor personalities fight hard for every tenth of a ratings point.

But ask anyone who knew David Grant during his 14-year tenure as a weather forecaster at Tampa NBC affiliate WFLA-Ch. 8 — eight of those years as the station's chief meteorologist — and they'll say the same thing:

He was an incredibly nice person; one of few in the TV business who never seemed to offer a cross word or attract nasty gossip himself.

As proof, consider that one of his good friends was a competitor: Wayne Shattuck, longtime forecaster at Tampa ABC affiliate WFTS-Ch. 28 and a buddy of Mr. Grant's since 1990 when they met at a conference.

"I really liked his on-air, friendly appeal. … He was always so excited about what he was doing and I wanted to mimic some of that myself," said Shattuck. "He was great meteorologist, but he was also a good person."

Mr. Grant died Friday morning at his Tampa home after a long struggle with inoperable pancreatic cancer. He was 79.

Beverly Grant, his wife of 36 years, said they had noticed long ago that the time 1:40 — they called it "20 minutes to 2" — would crop up at odd moments in their lives. So when he died at 1:40 a.m. Friday, they had already predicted it.

"The word for all this is beautiful," Beverly Grant said Sunday, displaying her husband's trademark, upbeat attitude. "I'm going to have lots of good memories."

In September, the former WFLA forecaster made a video announcing he would stop treatment for his cancer after two years of chemotherapy, drug treatments and consultations.

Sitting in front of an iPhone held by his wife as they relaxed outside Moffitt Cancer Center, Mr. Grant assured friends he was at peace.

"We're going to leave the chemo off and just let this body take us as long as it's going to take us," he said. "We're going for breakfast and we both feel so good about it."

That video was how Shattuck learned his friend had decided to end treatment. "I guess I was in a little bit of denial," he added. "After the chemotherapy, his weight came back and he looked so good."

A native of Oklahoma City, Mr. Grant worked as a forecaster in the Air Force before landing at hometown station KWTV in 1960. He stayed there for a dozen years before heading to stations in Atlanta, Seattle and Houston.

Back then, Mr. Grant met a fellow forecaster named Paul Catoe who would eventually become general manager at WFLA. When the station needed a No. 2 forecaster with a strong technical background and friendly presence, Catoe remembered Mr. Grant, who came to Tampa in 1986.

"David brought a great professionalism," said Catoe of Mr. Grant, who became WFLA's chief meteorologist in 1991. "You felt like when he was talking, he was talking directly to you."

Mr. Grant retired from WFLA in 1999, emphasizing that the departure was his choice. An avid tennis player whose bond with his wife was a constant, he planned to enjoy retirement — until doctors found a small tumor wrapped around his pancreas in 2010.

"We got over 100 cards (after the video was made public) ... and they all talked more about David as a person," noted Beverly Grant. "They said his warmth would come through. That was the biggest compliment for him."

He is survived by his wife and five adult children. A public visitation is scheduled from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Blount & Curry Funeral Home, Carrollwood Chapel, 3207 W Bearss Ave. in Tampa.

Times staff writer Irene Maher and Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

Friends recall warmth, personal touch of former WFLA meteorologist David Grant 12/02/12 [Last modified: Sunday, December 2, 2012 11:15pm]
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