David Hoadley: Fine Gentleman and Father of Storm Observing

The day before attempting to intercept the Six State Supercell, Rich Thompson and I went to Colleyville to attend the 2006 TESSA storm conference, organized by Martin Lisius.

We saw fascinating and suitably morbid talks by Al Moller and Scott Rae on the threat to the Metroplex from violent tornadoes, as well as an entertaining lecture by Chuck Doswell on responsible chasing, illustrating the behavior of yahoos. [The most memorable line: “I am a firm believer in Darwin. (Loud applause.) Some so-called storm chasers seem to have a death wish. I hope their wish comes true.”]

While those talks were absolutely necessary and unquestionably important, being hammered by three rather intense and often grim-themed presentations in a row made Dave Hoadley’s keynote talk an even more wonderful experience than it already was on its own merit.

There is nobody else like Dave Hoadley, and no one more worthy of the honors he received from the chasing community that afternoon. Since I first learned of him (working at NSSL and upon subscribing to Storm Track in 1986), I’ve admired this fine gentleman from afar, and my respect for him has ratcheted upward with every personal encounter since — whether in the field or at meetings.

Dave Hoadley, for me, always has represented what storm observing should be, at its core. He has been driving out to observe storms for 50 years now, the longest such tenure of any storm observer.
[The late, great Roger Jensen started his storm observing a few years earlier, but wasn’t too mobile either at first or in the later years. And as Tim Marshall pointed out in the post-TESSA dinner reception, Dave was the first person to cross state (maybe even county) lines in search of storms.]

Dave is the foremost chaser whom I would advise anyone entering the hobby to emulate, if possible. He has set a fine standard for safe and conscientious storm observing over the last half-century — quite a bit longer than some of the “extreme storm chasing” yahoos may even live. Other than his basic dignity and decency, Dave’s two most outstanding characteristics as a chaser are his deep appreciation for special great Plains moments, and his ethic of giving back to storm spotting and meteorology. Dave has contributed many hours of video and thousands of still images to spotting and educational efforts, and is the very opposite of a yahoo. [How ironic, then, that I sat behind someone wearing an “Extreme Storm Chaser” shirt. I hope he learned something good from Dave’s talk — namely, the ethos of giving and humility.]

In speaking, Dave’s style is matter-of-fact, dignified and even keel. He somehow is able to exude the respect-commanding authority of the late-1950s on-air anchorman, without the stuffiness, behind-the-scenes obnoxiousness or outright hypocrisy that usually characterized those people in reality. Dave’s talk wandered hither and yon on various storm chasing and autobiographical items, but still was quite profound and relevant, addressing the past, present and future of storm chasing, and some of his most memorable impressions from the past 50 years. His graphic accompaniment wasn’t Power-Point or anything similar, but instead, a collection of hand-drawn cartoons projected through an overhead (very nice touch!).

As an avid childhood reader of MAD Magazine, I recognized Dave’s style right away, as soon as I saw one of his Funnel Funnies for the first time back in ’86. Dave really is a fantastic cartoon artist, combining vivid sense of mood and sometimes prophetic insight (and foresight) into the subject matter. His cartoons have keen attention to visual background detail and hilariously exaggerated facial expressions and bodily features in the mold of MAD magazine’s legendary artist Al Jaffee. [It was no surprise, then, to find out that evening that Dave is familiar with Jaffee.] Dave’s God-given artistic talent extends to the written word too, with beautiful poetry and prose about storms.

Perhaps the most important part of his message was at the very end: Be open to, and immerse yourself in, those profoundly enchanting occasions of solitude and beauty on the Great Plains when you become one with the scene, when you are totally swept up in the moment, when you connect with a much greater power than yourself. Having had several of those amazing experiences myself, I robustly second that advice; because for me, that higher power in the stormy sky is no less than God himself.

MORE INFO:
Gene Rhoden has more details on the Hoadley tribute in his new BLOG. Here is a bio of Dave written nearly 20 years ago by Tim Marshall. Here is a group photo of those of us at the dinner tribute and roast, provided by Sam Barricklow (Dave is seated). And yes, I gave Dave his long-overdue Meatwagon Award!



Comments

One Response to “David Hoadley: Fine Gentleman and Father of Storm Observing”

  1. Chuck Doswell on March 31st, 2006 9:28 pm

    See – “What’s New” on my home Website.

    [Editor’s Note: the link is

    http://webserv.chatsystems.com/~doswell/chasesums/Hoadley.html

    …directly to the site.]

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