I was a grizzled veteran of three years in the news business when I started at the local newspaper.
It was January and my shift included Saturday night. I was eager to impress when the assignment editor ordered a story about the impending snow storm. But when I was told to call Mel Goldstein, the local meteorologist at home, I hesitated.
“It’s dinner time,” I pointed out.
“Oh, don’t worry about that,” the editor said. “He doesn’t care.”
She was right. He was happy – ecstatic! – to talk to me and at the end of the conversation, during which I asked only one question, followed by a complete forecast on the storm, he urged me to call back any time.
Over the next several years I did, and I came to know and admire Dr. Mel as an intelligent, personable, funny and friendly man who I could count on for a story. I adored him.
Dr. Mel was a professor at Western Connecticut State University for several years and then went to WTNH-TV as chief meteorologist. He works there still but maintained a relationship with WCSU and a few weeks ago he presented the President’s Lecture at the university.
If you have lived in Connecticut any length of time, you know Dr. Mel. That’s why he agreed that the topic of his talk would be about his origins: the genesis of his love of weather as he grew up in Marblehead, Mass.
He dedicated his talk to his mother, who died that week at 93, and who gave him his sense of humor.
“My mother was always smiling,” Mel said. “What I want us to do in the next 20 minutes is smile.”
He continued: “I thought weather would be interesting because of all the strange things that went on in my childhood.
“In 1953 there was a tornado in Worcester. My parents were the early storm-chasers; we drove up there to see what happened. The damage was absolutely startling.
“In 1954 I was waiting for my dad to get home and Hurricane Carol came along. We watched the roof of our house fly off – and we were still laughing. We asked ourselves, ‘Do you think Dad will be able to get home?’
“In ’54, we had Edna, but Edna hit Cape Cod instead of us. That same year was Hazel. That was a wicked storm that came up through the Carolinas, through New York and up to Toronto (but missed eastern Mass.)
“The next year, 1955, we had two storms, Hurricane Connie and Diane. I’m down in the basement with my grandfather and we were bailing out the basement. We didn’t know if the ocean was coming in or it was rain. Granddad gave it the taste test.” He demonstrated the dipping of his finger into the water. “Nope, it’s not the ocean! Pretty soon, the fire department came to evacuate us.”
And here he laughed heartily.
Goldstein said that weather, with all its unpredictability and occasional devastation, taught him to keep an even temperament.
“In the face of so many things that happen to us in our lives, it’s taught me to not be brought down by, oh, I don’t know, things like multiple myeloma.”
Mel was diagnosed in 1996 with the incurable cancer.
“I didn’t know what multiple myeloma was so I looked it up and it said the average survival rate is 33 months,” Mel remembered. “I said, ‘Well, it’s better than three.’”
The disease has had a physical effect.
“I used to be eight inches taller,” he said. “People ask me what happened. I said at least I am this much above ground. And after 15 years with the disease -- not 33 months -- I don’t care if I’m shorter.”
Mel’s wife Arlene and daughter Laura attended the lecture, and he gave them credit for his outlook, along with his mother.
“I’ve been fortunate with a wonderful family,” Mel said. “I’ve been fortunate with wonderful colleagues. I’ve had wonderful cancer care. How could I not smile?
“I’ll tell you,” he added, “I’m not going to stop.”