DETROIT (WWJ) - Upon hearing the news that Sonny Eliot had died at the age of 91, people who worked with the legendary weatherman couldn’t help but share their best memories of their beloved co-worker.
Eliot has been known as one of the hardest working men in Detroit broadcasting for over 60 years, and it’s very clear that those who worked alongside him will never forget the impact he had on their lives.
“I came to the station about 15 years ago and when I first met Sonny, I am a very large and tall and bald man, and so Sonny said ‘Hey Curly, how’s it going?’ And ever since then we struck up a friendship and what I was always amazed with Sonny is that if you were seven, 17 or 70, he treated everybody equally and always had time for us, and that was great,” said WWJ Account Executive Jeff Thompson.
“My favorite memory of Sonny was he always used to poke fun at me about my weight, constantly. He loved to refer to me, over and over again, as Raymond Burr in pantyhose. He reminded me a lot of my dad, frankly, and I find it unusual that Sonny died on the anniversary of my dad’s death. Goodbye Sonny, you were one of a kind,” said WWJ Anchor Roberta Jasina.
“Sonny was a bit of a flirt, known for his love of pretty ladies. He made the workplace here feel a bit like a 1960s harassment video — but in a fun way: ‘You have to touch a blonde every day!’ Above all, though, Sonny doted on his wife, Annette. I’ll always remember listening to him call her from his desk each day to read her his wacky weather reports before he went on, asking her for feedback. She was ill for a long time, and he picked her up dinner on his way home each night. That really made an impression on me,” said WWJ Webmaster Marisa Fusinski.
“When I first started at WWJ, I remember doing a story about Tiger Stadium, interviewing the bat boy for Ty Cobb. I remember coming in and talking about baseball with Sonny and I said ‘Sonny, did you ever have a chance to see Ty Cobb play ball at Tiger stadium?’ and he looked at me and said ‘Come on, kid! I’m not that old,’” said WWJ Producer Pat Vitale.
“I started working at WWJ about a year before Sonny retired and my desk was just on the other side of the cubicle from his. Every day I listened as he called his wife before he went on the air to make sure his weather forecast was alright. Then he’d ask what she was making for dinner and tell her how much he loved her. Honestly, it was the most endearing thing to listen to how vulgar he could be with his co-workers, but how sweet and delicate and loving he was with his wife,” said WWJ Digital Producer Stephanie Stoddart.
“I kept hearing what a funny guy Sonny was and the first time I met him, we had just moved into this building. Sonny walked into the newsroom and wanted to know who sat where, so I explained it to him. Well, he didn’t like that answer and he cussed me out. And then one time I inadvertently grabbed one of Sonny’s emails that he had sent to the printer, it was a joke that a listener had sent him. I can’t tell you what it said, but Sonny needed a couple of hours to make it clean enough to make the FCC lawyers happy,” said WWJ Editor Scott Ryan.
“Well I knew Sonny Eliot as a serious student of history. I often enjoyed minding his memories and his perceptions about life during WWII, both for him in the service as well as here in Detroit. And you know, he told me that he was a student at Wayne State, the Pearl Harbor attack, 71 years ago, launches us into WWII and he still recalled how his younger high school classmates envied him so much because he was old enough to join the Air Corps. He figured, along with his pals, that the war would be over in six or eight months and there would be a tremendous victory celebration in Tokyo and he certainly did not want to miss that,” said WWJ Anchor Joe Donovan.
“Sonny and I shared one thing in particular, our love for the Detroit Tigers. He actually took me to the old Tigers Stadium and I’ll never forget this, he breezed past all the security guards, took me up to the press box where I got to meet my other hero, Ernie Harwell. He introduced me to Ernie, I got to shake hands and talk baseball with Sonny and Ernie, and these two guys knew more about the Tigers and baseball. They were really broadcast legends and just amazing people and Sonny Eliot, I’ll tell you, he’s one of a kind,” said WWJ Anchor Greg Bowman.
“You know, the news can be sad and not that fun to read, and then we’d get to Sonny’s segment at 4:20 and 5:20 every afternoon and he was like the treasure box that we would open every afternoon. You never knew exactly what he might say or how he might say it and he came up with the phrase calling me “Lady Jayne” and every day he’d come up with a different adjective that he would make up right off the top of his head, you know, Lady Jayne the something-something-something,” said WWJ Anchor Jayne Bower.
“You know, I worked with Sonny when I was in my 20s and he was hilarious, you know, he’s just always walking about the newsroom, hanging with the sports guys. He was sitting back with the sports guys at the time, doing his bit from there, just a funny, loving guy. He would come over and pinch me, you know, and that was just typical and say things that some people might not think are very appropriate in this day, but he was very loving and very funny,” said WWJ Reporter Laura Bonnell.
“I did sports in the afternoon before I did mornings and I remember I would follow, or Sonny would always follow me after sports, and he would come in before the sportscast, when I’m doing the sportscast, and he would tell jokes before, after, during and I would just crack up every time. I had tears rolling down my cheeks because Sonny was just a funny, funny, funny man,” said WWJ Sports Reporter Tony Ortiz.
“Well I’ll tell you what, I remember meeting Sonny about 20 years ago, more than 20 years ago when I started working at the station and I was totally star struck. And every day I would walk into work and he would come up and wrap his arms around me and pinch my cheek and he was probably the biggest personality that I ever met in my life, but the warmest and kindest and funniest as well,” said WWJ Producer Bob Mundie.
“I have the honor of having Sonny Eliot’s old desk. I sit in the exact same place that Sonny Eliot sat for 30, 40, 50, 100 years, whatever it was, and what I have kept, my little personal memorabilia of Sonny Eliot, the garbage can,” said Talk Radio 1270 Show Host Charlie Langton.
Funeral services will be private.