Pat Barry, who worked four decades at an array of Cincinnati area TV and radio stations, died of complications from COVID-19 Saturday. He was 69.
Born Barry Tingley, Barry was a popular DJ at WKRQ-FM when WLWT-TV (Channel 5) hired him to replace meteorologist Tony Sands as the main weatherman at 6 and 11 p.m. in 1984.
Barry, who was tapped for the job even though he had no experience or training in meteorology, told the Cincy Shirts podcast in 2019 that WLWT executives wanted somebody who knew Cincinnati and who they could teach about the weather. He learned about the job opening from then WLWT anchorman (and former Cincinnati mayor) Jerry Springer, because the two of them frequented the Precinct restaurant.
Springer had just been promoted to anchor and "that summer, I used to see him out" at the Precinct restaurant, when Barry would emcee promotional events on Monday and Tuesdays, Barry said in a 1989 interview on Waycross Community Media's "Midnight Hour" show. Springer told Barry "we're going to make a change in the way we do the weather." Soon Barry came in for an audition and two weeks later, he had signed a three-year contract.
"Our ratings were awful at first," Barry said on the podcast. "We were terrible," Barry said. But within two years, the team of Springer, Norma Rashid and Ken Broo was No. 1.
Springer, who did the news for nine years with Barry and then a radio show with him for two years, said Barry was tapped as weatherman based on his personality.
Back then Willard Scott on the Today show was the most popular nationally known weatherman, a big, jolly guy.
“I thought what a great personality,” Springer said.
When the meteorologist left, instead of getting another weather expert, Springer thought Barry could be different, like Scott.
“I went to … the general manager,” Springer said. “He was new in town. And I said, there is this guy, a real personality. Young people listen to him on the radio.”
Barry would be perfect, Springer promised the general manager.
And he was. Although Steve Horstmeyer (then at WLWT and now on FOX19) had to teach him how to do the weather, Springer said.
“People started watching for Pat, as much as me and Norma (Rashid),” Springer said.
Barry and Springer’s friendship was a bit like the nerd and the popular guy, the latter being Barry, Springer said.
“He would always tease me, because I was a little nerdy,” Springer said. “Whenever I had a birthday, he would wish me Happy Birthday on the air, always adding a few years, knowing I couldn’t really refute him.”
The two stayed friends after the radio show, where it was Barry who did the teaching to Springer.
“We had great times together,” Springer said.
'A way of making everybody laugh': Pat Barry's career, making a difference
On the podcast, Barry noted that many TV weathermen such as the "Today" show's Al Roker don't have meteorology degrees. "I owe (current WXIX meteorologist Steve) Horstmeyer because I knew nothing when I walked in there," Barry said, adding he also took courses and did a lot of studying.
It was also at Channel 5 that he exhibited his far more sentimental side as spokesman for the Ruth Lyons Children's Fund. Childless himself, he would say that after many moist-eyed visits with hospitalized children to see the fruits of the funds' efforts, that it was the most consequential role he ever had his broadcasting.
In 1994, WLWT let Barry go and he was hired by WXIX-TV (Fox 19) in 1995. The first weather anchor for the new "19 in the Morning" news in 1996, he became the show's co-host a short time later. He left Fox 19 in 1999, but returned to the station as weekend weather anchor during the 2000s. Barry said he spent 15 years off and on at WXIX.
Tricia Macke worked with Barry when she was getting her start in the television business.
"Pat Barry did the weather and he always had a way of making everybody laugh by making fun of things and then filling up the room with his loud loud laughter. He would offer me advice on how to make other people look good on TV simply by watching how I said something in a toss," she said. "We have been friends for over 30 years and it’s tough to sum up thoughts or memories of him because I don’t think any will do him justice."
She said Barry loved when she compared him to Rodney Dangerfield and he loved to do his impersonation. She said he would text her before and during newscast offering a Cincinnati tidbit about this person or that person or telling me he liked my hair parted on the right or the left … I couldn’t believe he noticed but it was who he was. Detail oriented. He is the Rain Man of Cincinnati factoids. Name a person and chances are not only has he met them at some point in his life, he can offer you some flavor into who that person was."
Macke said Barry was always a positive influence in her life.
"Pat was always the person I would go to for advice," she said. He had a quick wit, he was one of the best people I have ever known. I will miss him dearly!"
'I got into radio and I worked all over Ohio'
In the Waycross Community Media interview, Barry said he started in radio in 1968 at age 16 in Springfield, Ohio, as he was ending his junior year of high school and helping out a DJ at WIZE.
"I was supposed to be a band director and go to Ohio State University," Barry said in the interview. "Somehow, I got into radio and I worked all over Ohio and Indiana and also in Florida."
He came to Cincinnati in 1974 to work at WSAI-AM and left in 1978 to put WOKV on the air in Hamilton. He then left after a year and a half to be program director at a Tampa station for Cincinnati-based Taft Broadcasting station for a year and a half "and then came back here with them" at Q102.
Janeen Coyle. now at WGRR-FM radio, worked with Barry at Q-102 in the '80s.
"Pat was always the life of the party. He never had a cloudy day. We grew up together all those years ago and I just know he's in Heaven cracking up the Big Guy with his best Rodney Dangerfield impression. We loved him and we will miss his "big kid" smile, and his even bigger heart.
During his stint at WLWT, Barry also had had a talk show on WKRC-AM that also was carried on seven Clear Channel oldies stations nationally.
Barry also was heard on WLW-AM, WMOJ-FM and WDJO-AM.
Hired by WDJO in 2014, Barry told The Enquirer, "I've worked everywhere else. Thought I'd give these guys a shot."
A week after leaving WDJO in 2018, Barry landed at classic country WNKN-FM (105.9) and WNKR-FM (106.7).
"He has done rock, pop, talk, and oldies formats on radio – and done weather and hosted shows on TV – but he has never been a country music DJ," wrote WVXU media reporter John Kiesewetter, the former Enquirer TV and radio critic.
Friend list was a 'who's who' of Cincinnati
Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said Barry loved Cincinnati.
“Pat Barry succeeded in multiple careers; primarily, I think, because he loved Cincinnati so much and that love endeared him to our people,” Cranley said.
Barry was friends with a "who’s who" of Cincinnati luminaries.
Former Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken called Barry “one of kind.”
Luken, who worked in media before becoming mayor, said Barry was a fountain of information about the city.
“He had an infectious bellowing laugh,” Luken said.
Barry was also good friends with National Baseball Hall of Famer and former Cincinnati Reds great Johnny Bench for several decades.
A release from friends Dennis Janson and Bina Roy said Johnny's three sons regarded Barry as "Uncle Pat," and with no immediate family of his own, Barry often spent Christmas and other holidays at the Bench enclave. Bench was closely monitoring medical developments in recent weeks but was still deeply saddened by the news.
"Never have I known anyone who could make me laugh so uncontrollably. Who was so appreciated by so many people. When I first met him, he gleefully drew my attention to his vanity license plate: 'Big Kid' it read and he was that and more," Bench said in the release.
"Bigger than life and the best friend anyone could ask for. A true professional in every sense of the word. He took life seriously but always leavened it with a lot of laughter. He was my friend, a distinction I share with hundreds of others who felt the same way."
A post on the WNKN/WNKR website iloveclassiccountry.com credits the relationship with teaching Barry to enjoy country music.
"Back in the early '80s, Johnny was still playing and whenever the two of them were driving around together, Johnny had country music on the radio. Pat's been a country music fan ever since," the post said.
Pat Barry guiding others as 'a mentor and supporter'
Though he never married, Pat had a coterie of friends and associates who thought of him as a big brother/defender. He was always more than willing to offer advice and guidance to young women and men who were pursuing broadcasting careers of their own. The industry is replete with Pat Barry mentees, his friends said.
Rich Walburg and Barry both worked at Q102, though not at the same time.
Walburg got to know Barry when Barry when Barry was the fill-in host for Jim Scott at 700WLW, where Walburg was an executive producer of that show.
“When Pat became your friend, he was your friend for life, Walburg said. "In recent years, he became a mentor and supporter, helping me navigate a new career after broadcasting. He would call or text just to check in or to share a joke. I will dearly miss his humor, warmth and kindness.”
Among those who share their admiration and thoughts on Pat's passing, another Hall of Famer, retired Reds legend, Marty Brennaman.
"I can't tell you how saddened I am to hear about Pat's passing. When I think of Pat Barry, I think of a guy always upbeat and always smiling. If you ever needed anything, all you had to do was ask and he'd pitch in, no questions asked. The way he transitioned is not pleasant to think about but we can be secure in the knowledge he is in a better place. Amanda and I will always cherish his friendship. "
Funeral arrangements are incomplete at this time, but donations would be encouraged to the Ruth Lyons Children's Fund and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
Cameron Knight contributed.