April 14, 2004, 10:15PM
John Wissinger, 89, early KPRC weatherman
By LYNWOOD ABRAM
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle
John E. Wissinger, the first weatherman for Channel 2 and a founder of the Harris County Senior Softball League, died Monday. He was 89.
Wissinger joined the station in the early 1950s, shortly after the Houston Post acquired Houston's first TV station, KLEE-TV, and changed the call letters to KPRC.
For 14 years, he was the station's weatherman, a part-time job in which he developed two evening newscasts. In those days, Channel 2 operated out of a Quonset hut in the vicinity of the present Galleria.
Among other innovations in weather reporting that Wissinger introduced was radar, which he used to record the movement of weather systems.
"He would go to the (federal) weather bureau, which was downtown then, and get the maps and information for the weathercast," said his son, physician John Wissinger of El Campo.
During his weather spots, Wissinger, chalk in hand, used large maps of Texas and the United States to illustrate fronts, wind speeds, temperatures and other data, his son said.
In September 1961, the large and deadly Hurricane Carla pounded the upper Texas coast. During 113 hours of continuous broadcasting, Wissinger monitored the storm as it raged and mauled the Houston area. Using radar, he pinpointed the storm's landfall near Port O'Connor, in Calhoun County southwest of Houston.
After retiring, Wissinger in 1981 helped organize the Senior Softball League with 28 players on the original roster. The league grew quickly, attracting players age 50 and up. For 15 years, Wissinger was a player and coach for the league.
John Earl Wissinger was born in the Houston Heights on Feb. 1, 1915, the son of Frederick and Catherine Margaret Wissinger. He attended Harvard Elementary School and graduated from Reagan High School.
Wissinger earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Rice University in 1938 and lettered as a pitcher on the Owls' baseball team.
During World War II, he served in the Army Air Corps. The Army selected him for training in meteorology at the California Institute of Technology, after which he was assigned as a weather officer in the Green Islands in the western Pacific.
Wissinger is survived by his wife of 55 years, Christine Smith Wissinger of Houston; and another son, Brad Wissinger of Friendswood.
A funeral Mass will be at 10 a.m. today at Holy Ghost Catholic Church, 6921 Chetwood. Burial will be in Forest Park Westheimer Cemetery, 12800 Westheimer.
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