Longtime WRAL weatherman Bob DeBardelaben dies

Posted October 6, 2014

Bob DeBardelaben

— Longtime WRAL weatherman Bob DeBardelaben, popularly known as “the biggest name in weather,” died Monday after a brief illness, according to his family. He was 88.

To many viewers and colleagues, DeBardelaben was larger than life.

“He has a great voice. He had great delivery. He had a great personality on the air, and I thought, man, this guy is really, he’s really good,” former WRAL and CNN anchor Bobbie Battista once said.

DeBardelaben had been a radio announcer and host of WRAL's "Dialing for Dollars" segments during afternoon movies when the television station asked him in 1976 to become a weather anchor.

“Bob was not a scientist, but he was a very good communicator, and I think Bob just made people feel good," said Jim Hefner, former WRAL general manager. "He always came on with that big smile and that big voice, and he was going to tell you to the best of his ability what the weather was going to be.”

Still, DeBardelaben readily admitted that he was geographically challenged.

“I didn’t know where Nebraska was. I didn’t know where Iowa (was) ... I knew North Carolina and South (Carolina)," he said. "One afternoon, before I went on the air, I went and took a pencil, and I went on the bottom, right-hand corner of every state. And I wrote 'IA' for Iowa, so I could stand up and say, 'Well now, here is the front coming down through Iowa.'”

He said his most memorable moment on the air was doing the weather from a platform near the top of WRAL’s 2,000-foot transmission tower.

“I got down and I kissed the ground," he said with a laugh. "I said, 'I will not do this again. No way.'"

DeBardelaben never took himself too seriously.

“I don’t think many people can say they enjoyed their life as much as Bob DeBardelaben," Hefner said. "Being on TV was fine, but not being on TV was just fine, too.”

In addition to weather reports, DeBardelaben voiced the sign-off announcements that WRAL ran at the end of each day – in the days before 24-hour broadcasting – as well as promotions for wrestling matches, which were staged in WRAL's studios.

In the 1980s, WRAL started making the move to meteorologists, bringing in Greg Fishel to back up DeBardelaben’s weather reports with science.

"He embraced that," Hefner said of DeBardelaben. "A lot of people might have seen that as a threat. He embraced it, and quite frankly, it probably kept his career going for a number of years.”

DeBardelaben retired from WRAL in 1989, but fans across the Triangle continued to recognize him for years whenever he went out in public.

“Somebody will come up and say, 'Are you Bob Debardelaben?' And my stock answer is, somebody asked Bette Davis one time whether she was Bette Davis, and her answer was, 'Well, I used to be.' So that’s my answer, 'Yes, I used to be.'”

Services set for Wednesday

DeBardelaben is survived by his wife, Carole, daughter, Allison, and son, Dean. A memorial service has been scheduled for Wednesday at 2 p.m. at White Memorial Presbyterian Church, 1704 Oberlin Road in Raleigh. Visitation will follow the service.

Mourning, memories pour forth on social media

Plenty of fans are sharing their memories of #BobDeBardelaben on social media.


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  • aecaldwell1 Oct 7, 2014


  • Thomas Williams Oct 7, 2014
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    Enjoyed you a lot Bob, you will be missed a lot.

  • Teresa Engel Oct 7, 2014
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    Rest in Peace, Mr. DeBardelaben. I grew up watching you, and clearly remember when Greg Fishel came on board. It was very evident that Mr. Fishel admired you as much as the rest of us. You will be missed!

  • a-moment-of-truth Oct 6, 2014

    You know you are from Raleigh IF...I'm 37 and recall Bob, Charlie Gaddy and I want to say a younger Tom Suiter, coming to my Lacy Elementary fall festival the year I was in 2nd grade. RIP Bob.

  • seenbetterdaze Oct 6, 2014

    Bob felt like part of our life...when our kids were in school, they would clap when Bob predicted Snow! We missed him when he retired. He was so warm and friendly. Bless his family and friends at this sad time.

  • Freda Kerr Oct 6, 2014
    user avatar

    Wow, a major personality from my childhood. I was 11 years old in 1976 when he started doing the weather. My thoughts go out to his family.

  • heelzfan4 Oct 6, 2014

    Such a wonderful, caring man...who will surely be missed. Remember watching him on TV for many years. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family. Rest in Peace "Mr. Bob."

  • delilahk2000 Oct 6, 2014


  • disgusted2010 Oct 6, 2014

    A great man, from the generation when news people had integrity. Unlike today.

  • acuranut Oct 6, 2014

    I got to know Bob over the past couple years. I am proud to call him my friend. I'm happy to see so many people thought so highly of him. He was a class act and will be missed.