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Jim Kenyon: Weatherman Jim Cantore helping children weather the storm with adoption charity event

Valley News Columnist
Published: 8/7/2021 9:50:49 PM
Modified: 8/7/2021 9:53:57 PM

When I heard Jim “Storm Tracker” Cantore was coming to the Upper Valley next week, I felt an immediate need to stock up on flashlight batteries and Spam.

After all, it is hurricane season, and Cantore isn’t known as the Angel of Doom for nothing. Wherever Cantore happens to be at this time of year, chances are a Category 3 — or worse — isn’t far behind.

As a 2012 ballad about Cantore warns, “If you see him in your hometown, you better make for higher ground.”

But it turns out this won’t be a business trip for the Weather Channel’s meteorologist extraordinaire.

Cantore, who grew up in Hartford, is making the trek from his home in Atlanta for a charity golf event at Montcalm Golf Club in Enfield.

Proceeds from the Aug. 16 tournament benefit the New Hampshire chapter of Gift of Adoption, a national nonprofit that provides financial assistance to families in the process of giving permanent homes to “vulnerable” children.

Some of the kids have been in foster care after it was found they had experienced abuse or neglect. Others suffer from critical medical conditions. Many of the “at-risk” children from outside the U.S. live in orphanages, where “aging out” can leave them homeless when they’re as young as 13.

Gift of Adoption, started by an Illinois couple in 1996, helps families with out-of-pocket expenses, such as legal fees and travel, incurred during the adoption process. International adoptions can be particularly costly, running $45,000 or more, The New York Times reported last year.

It’s no coincidence that Cantore agreed to help with the cause. He was adopted himself, along with his three siblings.

Their parents, Jim and Betty, were married for 56 years before her death in 2007. Her husband, who served as Lebanon’s postmaster during a 30-year career with the U.S. Postal Service, died in 2015.

“I owe everything to my dad,” Jim Cantore told me in a phone interview last week.

Starting at an early age, Cantore was a weather geek. As a teen, he glued himself to the TV to follow the Blizzard of ’78 that dumped 40 inches of snow and brought winds of 100 mph to parts of New England.

“You need to go study the weather,” his father told him. “You’re like a freak when it comes to the snow.” (If you’ve watched Cantore’s live reports of “thundersnow,” you know what his dad was talking about.)

After graduating from Hartford High in 1982, Cantore took his father’s advice and studied meteorology at Lyndon State College (now Northern Vermont University). In college, he ocassionally filled in for legendary WCAX-TV weatherman Stuart Hall on the Burlington station’s newscasts.

But when Cantore didn’t immediately find work in his chosen field after graduating in 1986, he returned home to White River Junction to paint houses. That summer, Cantore was atop a ladder, paint brush in hand, when his brother, Vincent (now the owner of Cantore’s Pizza in West Lebanon), stopped by with a message from their mother.

“Hey, Jim,” Vincent shouted. “The Weather Channel just called for you.”

Someone at the cable channel, which had been around for only four years, apparently had seen a tape of Cantore and thought he had a future in the business.

Cantore jumped in his Mercury Capri with no air conditioning and headed for the Weather Channel’s headquarters in Atlanta.

Thirty-five years later, he’s still enjoying a TV metereologist’s hall of fame career (if there is such a thing), ranking with the likes Al Roper and Willard Scott.

“What has made Cantore stand out as a broadcaster is the blend of his passion for and total command of the weather,” The Washington Post’s weather editor wrote in 2016. “He effortlessly explains any weather situation and does so with such conviction that a viewer can’t help but trust him and want to keep watching.

“He doesn’t dumb down the weather but doesn’t talk over your head, either. He seems to have an innate sense of how to talk about it in a way that is relatable and exciting. ... The man is genuine.”

Whether it was Andrew in 1992, Katrina in 2005 or Isaac in 2012, Cantore thrives on being where the action is.

With winds reaching 80 mph or more, he drops to one knee to prevent from being blown across New Orleans’ Canal Street. He dons protective goggles to shield against pelting rain in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. All the while, his eyes on the camera and a microphone in his hand as a hurricane rages around him and the rest of the Weather Channel crew.

“They are our Super Bowls,” Cantore told me. “You just have to show up. I’ve had many a vacation get blown away.”

Organizers of next Monday’s charity golf event at Montcalm are keeping their fingers crossed and an eye on the Doppler radar. Any tropical development in the Atlantic could force Cantore to suddenly audible to another location on the East Coast.

But the annual Golf for the Gift tournament will go on regardless. Montcalm, which Golf Digest ranked among the top 10 new U.S. courses in 2005, has hosted the 18-hole event since it began six years ago. When Chuck Currier, a Lebanon High graduate, bought the club in 2019, he was only too happy to continue the tradition.

Currier was 6 years old when his parents were killed in a car crash with a drunken driver in 1957. Different relatives adopted Currier and his three sibblings.

“This event is for a really good cause,” Currier said. “A lot of children are in need of stable homes. I know what it means to have a safe and secure family.”

Cantore, who tries to visit family in the Upper Valley a couple of times a year, was golfing at Montcalm in 2019 when Currier chatted him up.

Since then, Cantore and his girlfriend have stayed with Currier and his wife, Kristen, at their home in the Florida Keys.

“Chuck is a friend, and I appreciate what he’s doing,” said Cantore, referring to the fundraiser for Gift of Adoption’s chapter in New Hampshire.

The charity has awarded about $200,000 in adoption assistance grants since Linda Boucher, of Enfield, got it going in 2015.

Boucher, who was adopted at a young age, told me she hopes this year’s tournament can raise $40,000. The cost is $300 per player or $1,000 for a foursome.

“It’s a bit pricey,” Boucher acknowledged, “but this is something that I think people can see gives children a loving family.”

The registration deadline is Wednesday. (More information can be found at giftofadoption.org/golfreg.)

I checked the Weather Channel’s 10-day forecast, which calls for temperatures in the 70s under partly cloudy skies in Enfield next Monday.

Not the kind of weather that typically leads to a Jim Cantore sighting. Except when it’s for a worthy cause.

Jim Kenyon can be reached at jkenyon@vnews.com.




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