Funeral plans set for longtime WSFA 12 News meteorologist Dan Atkinson

Published: Sep. 26, 2017 at 4:32 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 26, 2017 at 10:32 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Longtime former WSFA 12 News meteorologist Dan Atkinson has died, his family confirmed Tuesday. He was 71.

Atkinson had been battling Parkinson's disease for several years.

"My primary physician was watching me do the weather one night on WSFA 12 News," Dan said during what would be his final sit-down interview at WSFA's studios in August. "He called to his wife and said, honey, I'm afraid to say this, but I think Dan has some symptoms of Parkinson's disease."

"Five years ago I was told to make funeral arrangements," Dan's wife, Cynthia, explained in that interview. "He was down to 127 pounds."

Still, the Atkinson family soldiered on until the end, crediting their faith in God for helping them handle the daily battle.

Dan, or "Dan the Man" as he was referred to here at WSFA, first joined the station's on-air team in 1974 after leaving Atlanta's WSB to become our weeknight meteorologist. For eight years Dan anchored the weather coverage at 6 and 10 p.m. while also co-hosting with Marge Payne the popular children's program "Young World" and later, with Sidney Kohara, "PM Magazine."

In 1982 Dan returned to Atlanta where he was an on-air meteorologist for The Weather Channel.

WSFA lured him back to Montgomery airwaves in 2006 where he helmed the weekend weathercasts with a smile. He retired in 2011 after more than four decades in the business. He said he still believed he would be on-air had Parkinson's not taken away his voice. It never stole his smile.

When not talking about the weather Dan found great fascination in studying Civil War history. One of his favorite pastimes was to visit battlefields like Gettysburg. He had another connection to significant American history. He shared the nation's birthday, July 4.

Though he was retired from WSFA and lived in the Auburn/Opelika area, Dan made sure to visit the station and people he loved annually during the Christmas season. He and Cynthia brought treats and a card and visited with friends.

In addition to his wife, Dan is survived by their children, Josh and Joy, as well as Daniel III, Dan's son from a previous marriage.

Funeral arrangements have been finalized. Visitation is set for Sunday from 3 to 6 p.m. at Alabama Heritage. The funeral will be held at Frazer UMC Monday with a visitation at noon and the funeral starting at 1 p.m. Graveside will be held in Opelika at Garden Hills at approximately 3:30 p.m.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING ABOUT DAN ATKINSON

WSFA 12 News Chief Meteorologist Josh Johnson

"Sad news...our friend, colleague, and mentor Dan Atkinson passed away this morning. One of the finest men I've ever known, and one of the best meteorologists to ever step in front of a camera. Truly a legend and a wonderful man. I will truly miss this man. Prayers with Cynthia and the kids and all of Dan's family. Godspeed, my sweet friend."

Former WSFA 12 News Chief Meteorologist Rich Thomas

"This world lost the greatest man today. Dan Atkinson…my friend, my mentor, my “brother”.  Dan took me under his wings at the TV station 36 years ago.  We have been extremely close friends since.  Dan showed us all how we should live our lives.  He enriched every life he touched.  A great meteorologist, a wonderful dad, husband, and friend to many. He will be dearly missed."

WSFA 12 News morning anchor Judd Davis

"So sad to have to write this. This morning we lost a fine Christian man and a broadcasting legend. Dan Atkinson was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease 10 years ago and fought till the end. 2 Cor 5:1 - For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.

Dan is in no more pain. I cry for his family still here. His wonderful wife and two kids. RIP Dan you always will be the best."

Former WSFA 12 News anchor Kim Hendrix

"Dan was a true gentleman, kind and considerate with a warm smile and an easy laugh.  Nothing ever rattled him on the air.  From the way Dan battled his illnesses the last several years, you could see nothing rattled him in life either.  A man who loved his family and his Savior.  Those of us who worked with him will surely miss him as will the entire community."

Former WSFA 12 News anchor Bob Howell

"The viewers loved Dan Atkinson - for all the right reasons. He was a terrific weatherman with his big smile and comforting voice. Away from work he was a caring father and husband who loved his family dearly. And he was a Godly man who shared his faith easily and often. We can take comfort knowing that with his passing, he's moved on to his well-deserved heavenly rewards."

ABC 33/40 Chief Meteorologist James Spann

"Dan was my earliest mentor, before J.B. Elliott. He set the standard, and I am a better man for working with him so many years ago in Montgomery. There was not a mean bone in his body, and to this day I appreciate his kindness to me at WSFA."

WSFA 12 News meteorologist Eric Snitil

"The world lost a good man today. Meteorologist Dan Atkinson passed away this morning. One of the few whose legacy will live on forever."

WSFA 12 News meteorologist Amanda Curran

"Dan Atkinson, the "Godfather" of Montgomery weather passed away earlier today. Although I was never lucky enough to be on the WSFA Weather team at the same time as him, the interactions we had meant the world to me. He was a top-notch meteorologist, but more importantly, he was a top-notch man. Thoughts and prayers are with Cynthia and his family during this difficult time; may he Rest In Peace." 

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