The weather was more than fodder for small talk to Richard Weaver.
The Dale Enterprise resident spent the better part of his life documenting the Valley’s changing conditions for one of the country’s oldest weather stations, a family affair since its establishment shortly after the Civil War ended.
But Weaver, who died Sunday at age 94, was much more than a volunteer weatherman. He also served as a Mennonite preacher and was a ham radio enthusiast, among other accomplishments.
In 1946, Weaver married his wife, Virginia, who survives. It was about that time he began working with her family at the Dale Enterprise Weather Station, just west of Harrisonburg off U.S. 33.
Virginia Weaver’s grandfather, L.J. Heatwole, started keeping weather records in 1868. In the 1880s, the U.S. Signal Service, predecessor of the National Weather Service, appointed Heatwole as a “voluntary observer.”
In the mid-1980s, Richard Weaver became the station’s lead observer, a post he held until he retired in 2012 after nearly 60 years of daily weather observations.
At the time, the station — one of more than 11,000 in the U.S. — was the oldest one operating in Virginia and the third oldest in the nation.
Another of Weaver’s passions was ham radio. He became a licensed operator in 1936 and was an active member of the amateur radio community throughout his life.
Gerry Brunk, 77, of Harrisonburg, said Weaver gave him his first radio license exam in 1955.
“I’ve known him since I was a teenager. We knew each other through ham radio and also through the Mennonite community” Brunk said. “He was an outgoing person, a very spiritual and giving person who loved his community and who loved music.”
Weaver was a part of the Mennonite Hour radio program, and in 1954, when he worked for the show as a recording engineer, he converted his chicken house into a recording studio that improved the quality of the recorded program.
Another radio enthusiast, Ellsworth Neff, also met Weaver as a teenager interested in amateur radio.
“I met Dick in 1954 or so and we’ve stayed in touch ever since,” said Neff, 75, of Mount Crawford. “There hasn’t been a stretch of time where we weren’t in contact, and we’ve spent many hours having conversations over the airwaves.”
Weaver even presided over Neff’s marriage to his wife, Jeanette, in 2000.
“I joked to Dick that he could marry us as long as I didn’t have to drive a horse and buggy,” Neff said. “He was Mennonite and I’m a member of the Church of the Brethren. Dick thought it was hilarious.”
Neff said Weaver’s impact on the community is immeasurable.
“There’s no doubt our community won’t be the same without him,” he said.
Weaver graduated from Eastern Mennonite High School and attended Eastern Mennonite College.
A conscientious objector, Weaver was drafted during World War II and stationed at Harrisburg State Mental Hospital in Pennsylvania and then in Medaryville, Ind., where he banded birds.
He was ordained as a minister by lot in Virginia Mennonite Conference in 1948 and retired in 1995 after 40 years of service.
Courtesy of the Daily News Record, July 30, 2014