Other than pointing to locations on a weather map, Mike Roberts had few ties to the metro-east until last year, when he married and moved to Godfrey.
The meteorologist at KSDK Channel 5 feels right at home there.
“I love Alton,” he said. “It’s like a tiny San Francisco. And the people are so friendly.”
Mike, 59, was sitting in the KSDK weather center in downtown St. Louis, tracking storms and preparing for the station’s noon newscast. Nestled among flat screens was a photo of him and his wife, Karen, on their wedding day.
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Mike feels lucky to have found love a second time. Anne Roberts, his wife of 34 years, died of cancer in 2013. He and Karen have a blended family with eight children, ages 7 to 36, and two grandchildren.
“We were meant to be together,” Mike said. “Everything just lined up.”
Mike worked five years for KMOV Channel 4 and spent a year in Kansas City before joining KSDK in 1996. He has won four Emmy Awards. He answers the office phone, “This is Mike, the weather guy.” No last name needed.
“He’s just one of those rock-solid, go-to people in the newsroom,” said Kay Quinn, a longtime reporter who anchors newscasts at 4 and 6 p.m.
Mike and Kay became friends on the KSDK weekend shift, when few managers are around. They strived for news and weather coverage that matched weekday quality. Their bond strengthened during Anne’s illness, as Kay’s mother also was suffering from cancer.
“It’s so comforting to be able to have a conversation with someone who understands what you are going through,” Kay said. “That was invaluable to me.”
History to radio to weather
Mike grew up in Detroit. He wanted to be a history teacher and football coach, but a professor at Central Michigan University told him he’d have to leave the state to find a job.
His mother was responsible, in part, for his career as a meteorologist.
“I was extremely shy, and my mom said, ‘Do they have any broadcasting classes?’” Mike recalled. “She thought that might help me come out of it.”
Mike switched to broadcast journalism and landed two radio jobs, one on campus and one at a private station in Saginaw, Mich.
His first big success was reporting on a murder. The Associated Press picked up the story, pleasing his editor. But the experience rubbed Mike the wrong way.
“As I was driving home, it occurred to me that I had an amazing day based on this tragedy that had happened,” he said.
Mike switched to weather forecasting at the campus station and later worked as TV weatherman in Cadillac and Traverse City, Mich., and Huntington, W.Va. In 1983, he took a job in Omaha, Neb., so he could return to school and earn a degree in atmospheric sciences at Creighton University.
The second round of college wasn’t easy for Mike, who was working full time, taking night classes and trying to spend time with his wife and four children.
“It took me seven years to get my degree,” he said.
Canned soup and storytelling
KSDK’s weather station is a half-moon-shaped room with a wall of windows that overlook the TV studio. Mike usually works evenings on Saturdays and Sundays and afternoons Monday through Wednesday. He sees weather forecasts as stories and tries to make them as compelling as possible.
“I like being able to take something that’s complicated, something that’s nuanced, something that’s scientific and turn it into the who, what, where, why and when,” he said.
Technology helps Mike with storytelling. Forecasts include colorful animated graphics and “skycam” images of sunny skies, drizzling rain or heavy snow.
Much has changed in meteorology since Mike’s early days, a subject that pops up in a class he teaches at St. Louis University.
“I started with a magnetic weatherboard and, by 1982, we were using the first generation of weather computers,” he said.
Mike’s favorite part of being a weatherman is the instant gratification. Most stories begin and end the same day.
His least favorite part? Mike chooses his words carefully. He enjoys hearing from viewers and doesn’t mind criticism for bad forecasts, but he dislikes the way social media has changed the discourse.
“We’re just in a mean era, and people say the most shocking, rude things,” he said. “Sometimes, I’m just taken aback.”
In 2013, the KSDK staff joined in celebrating the birth of Mike’s grandson, Sullivan. Grandpa managed to work several mentions of the town Sullivan, Mo., into his forecast. Today, Mike’s cellphone wallpaper is a photo of the toddler.
One of the pitfalls of working at a TV station is relying on snacks from the vending machine while trying to make deadline. Mike has tried to avoid that by packing lunches.
“He recently got on a health kick, and his meal of choice is canned soup,” Kay said.
Keeping faith and finding love
Beyond weather forecasting, Mike is known for his strong faith. He’s a Catholic and a believer in the Divine Mercy, a Christian devotion based on revelations from Jesus reported in the diary of St. Faustina Kowalska.
Anne shared Mike’s faith, which guided them through her illness.
“She died at home in a very peaceful way,” he said. “She was hugely popular. She had so many friends.”
Mike met the former Karen Massalone in 2014 when she was working as development officer for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in St. Louis. A few months before, she had sent an email asking him to write a newsletter article to help with fundraising.
Mike nearly turned down the request. His son, Danny, was in critical condition after severely cutting himself with a saw in his carpentry shop.
“But then I thought, ‘Why not? I’m sitting here in a dimly lit waiting room at the hospital in the middle of the night,’” he said. “I didn’t have anything else to do.”
Karen and Mike later met for lunch with her boss, and Mike accepted their invitation to attend a St. Vincent de Paul Mass.
After the service, Karen and Mike went to lunch and talked for three hours. The instant attraction surprised both.
“Neither of us were looking for a relationship,” said Karen, 50. “We were just at that stage in life. My plate was full, commuting to a full-time job and raising four children. I really was very content.”
After lunch, Mike asked Karen for a date. He took off his wedding ring, not wanting her to feel uncomfortable.
To break the ice with her children, Mike sent them flowers with a note that read, “As long as our journey continues, I promise to treat your mom as I would the Blessed Mother.”
“My oldest daughter took a picture of the flowers and the note,” Karen said. “(And she sent) a text that said, ‘I don’t even have to meet him. I approve!’”
Mike had been living in Chesterfield, Mo., but he and Karen decided to make their home in Godfrey.
Karen no longer works for St. Vincent de Paul. She is writing copy and grants for a home-based company that she and Mike founded. In their free time, they enjoy jogging, biking, movies and yard work.
“We felt (the marriage) was providential,” Karen said. “We both are dreamers, but we couldn’t have even dreamt that this would happen. We’re really very happy.”