Willard Scott, one of the most memorable television weathermen in history, has sadly passed away. The Today show personality, who is also the creator and original actor to first portray Ronald McDonald on television, reportedly died on Saturday morning while surrounded by his family. He was 87 years old.
"We lost a beloved member of our @todayshow family this morning," Al Roker wrote on Instagram. "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."
Posting a photo of herself with Scott, Katie Couric also tweeted, "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."
Born on March 7, 1934, Scott got his start on the Joy Boys radio show in 1955, co-hosting the show with Ed Walker. The show played until 1972. During the 1960s, Scott also took on jobs hosting children's television programs on WRC-TV, playing characters like Commander Retro and Bozo the Clown. He started appearing on WRC-TV as a weekday weatherman in 1970. Eventually, he joined The Today Show in 1980 to become the show's weatherman, replacing Bob Ryan.
On Today, Scott was known for wishing centenarians a happy birthday and for his interviews with locals for various community events. In early 1996, Scott had semi-retired with Al Roker taking his place. However, he still appeared to continue sporadically on Today to continue wishing centenarians a happy birthday. Scott would also substitute for Roker on occasion before officially retiring from television in 2015.
Willard is also known for creating Ronald McDonald, the hamburger-hocking clown who serves as the McDonald's mascot. He started appearing in television ads as the character in 1963, serving as the first person to ever portray Ronald, and continued in this role over the next few years. In his book Joy of Living, Scott explains how his work on Bozo the Clown served as inspiration when McDonald's asked him to create a new Bozo-like character for the company.
"At the time, Bozo was the hottest children's show on the air," Scott wrote. "You could probably have sent Pluto the Dog or Dumbo the Elephant over and it would have been equally as successful. But I was there, and I was Bozo ... There was something about the combination of hamburgers and Bozo that was irresistible to kids ... That's why when Bozo went off the air a few years later, the local McDonald's people asked me to come up with a new character to take Bozo's place. So, I sat down and created Ronald McDonald."
Scott's survivors include his wife, Paris Keena, along with his two daughters. He is preceded in death by his first wife, Mary Dwyer Scott, who passed away in 2002. At this time, our thoughts go out to the family and friends of Willard Scott. May he rest in peace. This news comes to us from Variety.