Willard Scott, the longtime weatherman for the “Today” show and the original Ronald McDonald, died on Saturday morning. He was 87.
“Today’s” Al Roker confirmed Scott’s passing on “Today” and in a heartfelt Instagram post. “We lost a beloved member of our @todayshow family this morning,” Roker wrote. “Willard Scott passed peacefully at the age of 87 surrounded by family, including his daughters Sally and Mary and his lovely wife, Paris. He was truly my second dad and am where I am today because of his generous spirit. Willard was a man of his times, the ultimate broadcaster. There will never be anyone quite like him.”
Scott got his start in broadcasting on WRC’s “Joy Boys” radio program alongside Ed Walker after graduating from American University. The show ran from 1955 to 1972, which was interrupted from 1956 to 1958 when Scott served in the U.S. Navy. During the ’60s, Scott also hosted several children’s television programs, playing characters like Bozo the Clown. Scott also originated the role of Ronald McDonald for McDonald’s in their TV spots, appearing as the character regular from 1963 to 1966.
In 1970, Scott began a stint at WRC-TV as a weatherman. He was then hired in 1980 by “Today,” replacing Bob Ryan. As the “Today” weatherman, Scott was known for wishing centenarians happy birthday and interviewing local characters during festivals and events. In 1996, Scott was succeeded by Roker, but continued to appear on the morning show several times a week to say happy birthday to centenarians. Scott fully retired from television in 2015, and the plaza outside of Rockefeller Center was renamed Willard Scott Way in his honor.
Katie Couric tweeted in remembrance of Scott on Saturday, writing: “I am heartbroken that the much loved Willard Scott has passed away. He played such an outsized role in my life & was as warm & loving & generous off camera as he was on. Willard, you didn’t make it to the front of the Smucker’s jar, but you changed so many lives for the better.”
I am heartbroken that the much loved Willard Scott has passed away. He played such an outsized role in my life & was as warm & loving & generous off camera as he was on. Willard, you didn’t make it to the front of the Smucker’s jar, but you changed so many lives for the better.♥️ pic.twitter.com/aePQnZxf5O
— Katie Couric (@katiecouric) September 4, 2021
Scott is survived by his wife, Paris Keena, and two daughters. He is predeceased by his first wife, Mary Dwyer Scott, who died in 2002.