By Carrie Steinweg
MUNSTER, Ind. (May 23, 2022) On Sunday, the lobby area of the independent living facility at Hartsfield Village in Munster hosted a large crowd of residents, locals, and longtime fans of WGN’s meteorology team. The event was a celebration of the release of the new book Cooler By The Lake by 92-year-old Roger Triemstra.
A long and highly-respected career
Triemstra was one of Chicagoland’s most trusted radio and television personalities, bringing the weather to viewers and listeners of WGN for 33 years. His memoir goes back to his days of being raised in South Holland and his early interest in how Lake Michigan influenced Chicago’s weather through his long career reporting the weather.
His concern for the environment and effects of pollution led to work as a meteorologist and efforts to educate others about global warming effects.
Triemstra was WGN’s meteorologist and expert on the equinox between 1965 and 1998. He updated Chicagoans on the ever-changing weather patterns in the city with his friendly demeanor and folksy humor, delivering more than 50 weather reports each week. Some reports were done from his full weather station in his home.
“At the time I came on, he had worked a year non-stop,” recalled current WGN chief meteorologist Tom Skilling at the event. “They said, ‘We’ve got to get you in there kid to give him a break!’” Skilling wrote the foreword for Triemstra’s 204-page book.
Tom Skilling and Eddie Volkman appearances
Those who attended to meet Triemstra and purchase his new book also got to meet his successor, Tom Skilling, and Eddie Volkman, former host of the WBBM-FM B96 “Eddie & JoBo” show and son of longtime Chicago meteorologist Harry Volkman. Harry Volkman worked for a number of Chicago stations from the 1950s until the early 2000s, including three years at WGN. He is credited with being the first weatherman to ever issue a televised tornado warning. According to Triemstra’s daughter, Cheri, her father’s career at WGN came after he was unexpectedly asked to fill in for Volkman.
“I’m honored to be part of this group, even though I’m not a meteorologist, just the son of one,” said Volkman. “It’s been so great hearing people share stories. A lot of people have been talking about remembering Dad coming visit their school. He did that a lot. And a few of my old radio listeners showed up, too.”
Skilling publicized the event on his Facebook page last week and praised the book, calling it “beautifully done with a treasure trove of photos. I can tell you it’s a fun read,” he wrote. “Rog shared fascinating insights into his work with legendary WGN radio personalities, including Wally Phillips, Bob Collins, Max Armstrong, and Orion Samuelson among so many others and also the account of the love of his wife Gerrie and the Triemstra family.”
Skilling chatted with fans after they got their books signed by Triemstra, enthusiastically shaking hands and smiling for photos. “First of all, what a turnout and what a book,” said Skilling. “I think anyone who follows his work will be as fascinated by the book as I was. I learned things I didn’t know about him. He has a fascinating background — as a meteorologist, an engineer, a military meteorologist. It’s so good to see him and see how good he’s doing and at age 92, he is still sharp as a tack.”
Many members of Triemstra’s family were also in attendance, including his four children and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. “This has been really great for him,” said his daughter, Cheri Triemstra. “He started working on the book after my mom died and it’s been cathartic for him. He had two ghostwriters and he did weekly ZOOM calls with them. He shared his stories and they composed the book. He started it in the beginning of 2021.”
Triemstra and his wife moved to Hartsfield Village about five years ago. His daughter said the couple was together for 73 years having met as teenagers at Wicker Park in Highland. His wife was from Northwest Indiana and the two lived in Highland and Munster for many years before moving to Hartsfield Village.
Large turnout for book signing
Surrounded by his family, Triemstra had a constant stream of guests, some whom were former neighbors and family friends and others who simply wanted to meet the legendary media personality. Less than 30 minutes into the event, his daughter, Cheri, said they’d nearly sold out of the 150 copies that Triemstra had signed in advance. They had a stock of unsigned books to pull from if needed.
Local entertainer Frank Rossi entertained guest with standards and crowd favorites, making his way through the lobby as he played accordion for some numbers.
Rev. Bassam M. Madany was happy to see the outpouring of support for his friend. Madany, like Triemstra, is a resident of Hartsfield Village, but they’ve known each other since the 1970s. “Roger was on the board when we did the Back To God Hour,” he said. Triemstra served for a couple years on the board of the radio program that is a media ministry of the Christian Reformed Church. Madany noted that although everyone knows Triemstra for his meteorology background, he is also an expert on British writer C.S. Lewis.
Karen Adams, co-chair of the Lansing Food Pantry, recently moved to Hartsfield Village and attended the book signing event. “I think this is just wonderful for him and it’s wonderful to see so many people here,” she said.
Hartsfield Village Independent Living Administrative Assistant Cheryl Rodriquez said that the event was a collaborative effort between the Triemstra family and staff at Hartsfield Village. “It’s exciting and heartfelt to see this turnout. And it’s very good to see something like this at this point in the world. It’s a privilege and a pleasure to know him,” she said.
Cheri Triemstra said that the book was just released in March and this was the first event held to promote the its release. She said the family had been talking about doing a book signing and staff invited them to do the signing there. “They’ve been great about it,” she said.
“This is just lovely and this is a lovely place. I don’t get out of the city very much. I’ve never been here before,” Skilling said. “And what a turnout this is.”
Even after the event ending time had passed, the band quit playing, and the clean-up had begun, the line still wrapped around the room as individuals waited patiently to share stories of tornados, thunderstorms, and other weather scares and thank Triemstra for his dedicated years on air letting viewers and listeners know whether they needed a hat and gloves, if the sun would shine that day, or if they should expect a drop in temperature from a cool lake breeze.
Copies of Triemstra’s book can be purchased at rogertheweatherman.com.