July 26, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
83°F
test

Longtime N. Ridgeville weather spotter Ray Diederich dies

NORTH RIDGEVILLE — Reporters will say that they appreciate a source who answers his telephone, and Ray Diederich was that person.

Day or night, Diederich would field calls, and if you didn’t call him, he would call you when a major weather event occurred, remembered Joe Gluvna, a former reporter and editor for The Chronicle-Telegram.

“You do a weather story, you call Ray Diederich,” Gluvna said matter of factly.

Diederich was a cooperative observer for the National Weather Service for 58 years. He started recording the weather when he graduated from North Ridgeville High School, and the work was more of a passion than a job to Diederich, who was strictly a volunteer.

And Diederich was good at what he did, said Brian Mitchell, who works as an observing program leader at the National Weather Service of Cleveland. Mitchell, who started working at the National Weather Service in 1995, said Diederich had all of his own weather equipment, and he kept detailed records.

“It’s hard to find people like that in today’s world,” he said. “He could remember a lot of significant weather events.”

Diederich died Thursday at the age of 84, leaving behind eight children, 12 grandchildren and two step-grandchildren. Diederich was preceded in death by his son, Paul, who died in 1986, and by his wife of 51 years, Olga.

Diederich’s sister, Loyola Diederich, of North Ridgeville, said Diederich liked working in the weather business. His dream, she said, was to “ride out a tornado,” something he never got to do.

Ray Diederich also enjoyed planting, and he worked at his family’s business, J.P. Diederich and Sons Inc., which got its start nearly 90 years ago. Loyola said the florist business still remains a family one.

Diederich retired as a cooperative observer at age 78 in the summer of 2007, but he would still comment on the weather from time to time, speaking with a reporter about a light snowfall in Nov. 2007 and a bad snowstorm in December of that year.

Diederich’s fascination with the weather was fueled by his curiosity to find out how the weather affected his family’s plants and crops, he told The Chronicle-Telegram after his retirement. He heard about an opening at the National Weather Service and offered his services via letter.

“It got into being a habit I couldn’t quit,” he said in Aug. 2007.

The habit earned him several awards from the National Weather Service, including the most-coveted award a weather spotter can receive — the Thomas Jefferson Award.

The award is presented to a weather spotter who has been at the job for at least 25 years, said Mitchell. He said only 25 people across the country receive the award each year.

Diederich also received Golden Kernel awards, along with his sister Loyola, at North Ridgeville’s Corn Festival in 2001. Named citizens of the year, Ray and Loyola received proclamations from the state Senate and House of Representatives and baskets of gifts from the festival’s committee, including corn-shaped salt and pepper shakers, corn-cob holders, mugs and caps.

Loyola Diederich said the award was a shock to her brother.

“He was surprised when he got nominated for it,” she said.

Carol Klear, former editor for the North Ridgeville Press, described Ray Diederich as kind-hearted and “down to earth.” She said it was a pleasure working with a man who made his work his passion.

“When I was working as an editor, and I would need something particularly as far as weather, I would call Ray,” she said. “He always took the time. He was just a nice, nice man.”

Friends will be received from 5 to 8 p.m. today at Dicken Funeral Home, 323 Middle Ave., Elyria. A funeral mass will be at 10:30 a.m. Monday at St. Peter Church, 35777 Center Ridge Road, North Ridgeville.

Memorial contributions can be made to St. Peter Church, where Diederich was a long-time member.

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com.