Dave Roberts Retires

December 29, 2009 5:02:17 PM PST
On November 18, 2009, Dave Roberts told his television family that he's ready to watch TV, rather than be on it. After 56 years in the business, and 31 memorable years at WPVI, the legendary broadcaster retired on December 11th.

"This is a bittersweet day for the Channel 6 family, and the Delaware Valley," remarked Bernie Prazenica, President and General Manager of 6abc. "Dave has touched so many lives during his broadcast career. He is truly one of the most genuine, authentic people to ever work in the business. Without Dave, Channel 6 would not be what it is today."

Roberts' radio and television career puts him in a very select category. He is one of the most trusted and beloved personalities in local television history. But even with all of his popularity and career accomplishments, 6abc employees usually choose to discuss "Dave - the person," the co-worker who always remembers to ask about the family, or to leave a note of encouragement on a colleague's desk.

Dave's kindness is echoed by his soon-to-be former boss, VP & News Director, Carla Carpenter. "Dave's retirement is a big loss for us. He's not only a terrific talent?he is a kind and generous man who has the remarkable ability to make each person he works with feel special."

Perhaps no one will miss Roberts more than his longtime co-anchor, Action News' Jim Gardner. "Dave's reputation for random acts of kindness sometimes overshadows the fact that Dave Roberts is a brilliant broadcaster. As much or more than anyone I've known, Dave knows how to make a viewer think that he's talking to them personally. That's a powerful talent that can't be taught and Dave has it. He also communicates the same likeability or, forgive me, lovability to his viewers that he does to his co-workers. Dave Roberts has the innate ability to bring intelligence, warmth and dignity to everything he does on television. There aren't too many broadcasters who can cover that many bases. He does. All you have to do is glance at his resume to understand that he may be the most versatile television broadcaster in America. He might also be the most supportive colleague I could imagine having. I will miss him terribly."

Night after night, year after year, Dave Roberts has been a Philadelphia mainstay, anchoring the weather on Action News. Known for his warm, friendly, and accurate presentation, Roberts was most often seen on the 5pm, 6pm, and 11pm newscasts, the most watched in the tri-state area. In 2002, Roberts opted to reduce his workload, passing the 11pm torch to Cecily Tynan.

Dave Roberts' own move to the Action News evening newscasts came when Channel 6 faced an unexpected tragedy. In 1983, the entire Delaware Valley was shocked and saddened by the sudden death of Action News weather anchor Jim O'Brien in a skydiving accident. Roberts vividly remembers the sadness within the Channel 6 family. "Jim was killed on a Sunday. Everyone was so shocked?we were all so sad. And I remember how Jim (Gardner) handled it. Having to report the death of your dear friend?it was incredible how he held it together. His strength helped the rest of us get through it."

"The day after Jim's death, we didn't even do the weather?.we couldn't. But the next day (Tuesday), the General Manager called me to his office and asked me if I could fill in for Jim." Roberts agreed to anchor the weather that night, but only under the condition that it be temporary and the station "find a replacement fast." Roberts remembers being called to the G.M.'s office a few months later. "They told me they found a replacement for Jim. I said, 'Oh, thank goodness! Who is it?' And they said: 'You.'"

Roberts' affection for O'Brien was both personal and professional. Shortly after his arrival in 1978, Dave was asked to co-host the Thanksgiving Day parade with the enigmatic O'Brien. "I remember that first parade with Jim. I didn't know what to expect, and he showed up in his crazy cowboy boots and cowboy hat. It was something to be seen. But right before we went live, he looked at me and said 'Let's have some fun!' And that was pretty much what Jim O'Brien was all about. And that quote has set the tone for every parade I've done. Since that day, I say the same thing to my co-host and crew before each parade."

Dave Roberts joined WPVI on May 15th, 1978. He was hired to serve as co-host of Channel 6's new morning talk show - AM Philadelphia. Additionally, Roberts was Action News' weather anchor for the noon newscast. He came to Philadelphia via his hometown station in Buffalo, New York - WKBW, where he was an overwhelmingly popular host of their children's variety program, Rocket Ship 7. Roberts, known as "Dave Thomas" during his Buffalo days, also co-hosted Dialing For Dollars, and did the noon weather with a new, young anchor named Jim Gardner.

Dave Roberts started his professional career, while still attending college, at Syracuse University, where he studied Speech and Dramatic Arts, with dual majors in English and Communications. In the fall of 1953, Roberts worked for WAER-FM, and then later at WOLF-AM, both located in Syracuse.

In 1956, Roberts got his first shot at television. His first TV gig was at WBUF-TV, the NBC-owned station in Buffalo, New York. Roberts fondly recalls his first television appearance. "It was Christmas Eve! Nobody else wanted to work, so they threw me in there! I don't know if anyone was watching, but I did a fifteen minute sports block?on Christmas Eve!"

In 1958, Roberts' career took a detour, when Uncle Sam called his number. "Back then, young men were still getting drafted. Some of my friends were drafted right out of college, and were sent to Korea, and never made it back. It was very sad. It was a scary time. It was just my time to serve." Roberts wanted to be a pilot, but he didn't have the perfect eyesight required. So the Army put his media skills to use. While serving in Panama, he worked as the News Director of the U. S. Army for the Caribbean Forces Radio-TV Network in the Panama Canal Zone. During his two year military commitment, Roberts also broadcast on Armed Forces Radio in New York City.

Along with being a weather anchor at 6abc, Roberts has hosted countless local events televised by the station, including 31 Thanksgiving Day parades, the Welcome America July 4th Celebration, and the Philadelphia Flower Show. Dave credits his success to those around him.

"My family and I are most grateful to all the viewers for their kindness over so many years. I have also been blessed to work with the wonderful people at WPVI - my 6abc family. Their support and caring continue to guide me. My wife Patti and I approach the future with the same excitement and hope which we had when we arrived here thirty-one years ago. Thanks for all the memories as those memories are now treasures which will be stored in our hearts forever. Laughter, a smile and a kind word will always fill your day with sunshine."

Dave Roberts is a member of the Screen Actors Guild and appeared in Brian DePalma's "Blow Out" with John Travolta. He has also made guest appearances on ABC's soap opera "All My Children", Dick Clark's "Inside America" and ABC's "Thirty - Something."

Dave is active in many organizations including Variety - The Children's Charity and the Knights of Columbus where he is a Fourth Degree Knight. His work for charity is extensive and includes Catholic Charity Drives, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Lupus Foundation, and the Children's' Hospital of Philadelphia. He also served as a host of the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon on 6abc.

In 2000, Dave was named Person of the Year by the Philadelphia Broadcast Pioneers and was inducted into the Pioneers' Hall of Fame. In 2001, he was also inducted into the Buffalo New York Broadcasters' Hall of Fame. The Central Delco Lodge #2438, Order of Sons of Italy in America, selected Dave as its recipient for its "Man of the Year Achievement Award" for his outstanding service to the community. Dave was also honored as Person of the Year by the Muscular Dystrophy Association for thirty-five years of service.

In May of 2002, Dave received a Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Holy Family College in Philadelphia, and in May of 2004, he was awarded the Whitney M. Young Jr. Service Award from the Boy Scouts for "unselfish service to the youth of America."

Dave and his wife Patti have three grown children and four grandchildren.


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