Chances are, you’ve welcomed John Wheeler into your home, in some form, a number of times. He’s worked as the head of meteorology at WDAY-TV for 28 years, where he contributes his nightly forecasts and weather observations. As part of that job, he also does the forecast and writes for The Forum newspaper and can be heard on 970 WDAY radio.
But even though John isn’t a stranger to you, there’s more to him than weather. He also teaches at NDSU (public speaking and broadcast communication) and serves on the board of directors of the Vocational Training Center, a non-profit facility employing people with disabilities. He’s a 1984 graduate of Iowa State University and, as you’ll read, he has plenty of connections to visual art, music, and poetry.
First of all, I am married to Fargo artist Emily Williams-Wheeler. Her works of art and her smile make our home a colorful and happy place. We have a daughter, Maggie, finishing college this year and a son, Cameron, finishing high school. And two dogs. We’ve always had dogs.
What book, music, movie, artwork, etc., really gets you going? Why?
I read very few novels. Instead, I read mostly non-fiction and poetry. Not to typecast myself, but I read lots of earth science books. This summer I’ve been reading Simon Winchester (Krakatoa and A Crack in the World which are about the great volcanic eruption of 1883 and the San Francisco earthquake) and Brian Fagan (Beyond the Blue Horizon which a prehistory of early peoples who traveled the oceans).
I like Midwestern poetry because, although it is about people, the environment shows up regularly as an important character. The poet, Mark Vinz, is a friend of mine and we will occasionally meet over coffee or a beer. We always seem to end up talking about weather and writing at the same time. Many years ago, on the advice of a friend, I sent Mark some poetry I had been dabbling with and he red lined it all and encouraged me to keep working on it. A few years later (still back in the 1990s), I finally got a couple of poems published in the North Coast Review, which was a real thrill.
I still love to write although most of my writing efforts these days are geared toward The Forum. I like poetry best when it is read aloud and I have had a few opportunities over the years to hold readings of my own. If I ever get serious about writing poetry again, I would jump at just about any chance to participate in readings again.
What artist, musician, etc., inspires you the most? Why?
I am a Beatle person. By that, I mean I do not merely like Beatles music. Rather, The Beatles have been a near obsession for me since I was a kid back in the late 60s-early 70s. I do dabble with guitars a bit and I own a John Lennon style Rickenbacker guitar although I am unable to do proper justice to it, being a terminal novice as a musician.
What local artist, musician, writer, etc., do you admire, and why?
My favorite local musicians… would be The Front Fenders. They are terrific musicians and their shows are really focused on creating a lot of fun for the audience. My son, Cameron, has recently been hired as the bassist for the band and, once in a while, they let me come up and play rhythm guitar for two or three numbers. I don’t get to hear as much live music as I’d like because my television work schedule keeps me busy most evenings.
Image: John Wheeler at the WDAY studios in Fargo in front of the green chroma key screen used in his weather broadcasts. Photo by the author.