(WIBW) - WIBW Television lost a long-time member of its broadcast family.
Charles Ross, 86, passed away at Midland Care hospice Tuesday afternoon.
Charles spent more than a dozen years with WIBW-TV and Radio, beginning in 1957 as a farm broadcaster. He was promoted to news director, then information manager and, on the historic day, June 8, 1966, became the TV station manager.
Ironically, Bill Curtis was announcing Charles' promotion on the 6 pm news when the story was quickly overshadowed by an F-5 tornado bearing down on the Capital City.
Charles' son, Richard, told us his dad was writing his memories of the tornado before he died. From those notes and from conversations at his father's hospital bed when he became ill last month, Richard said his dad told Curtis to stay at the station after the June 8th newscast, because WIBW was getting updates from Manhattan, which had already been hit by the storm, and a station photographer in the field.
The approaching storm was not showing up as a tornado on weather service radar. Charles said he told Curtis to warn Topekans that a tornado was near, leading to that now famous warning, "For God's sake, take cover."
The WIBW-TV announcement came 9 minutes before the official weather bureau confirmation. Charles believed the early warning saved lives, even though he said the weather service later criticized him for reporting the tornado before it was officially confirmed.
After Charles Ross broadcast career, he moved to a 20-year career with electric cooperatives. His wife of 68 years, Doris, passed away March 17.
Visitation for Charles Ross is from 5:30 to 7:30 pm Friday at Penwell-Gabel Southwest Chapel, 3700 SW Wanamaker Rd. A memorial service will be held at the chapel 10 am Saturday.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions to Midland Care, 200 SW Frazier Circle, Topeka, 66606.