Barry, My Association with a Giant

By Mary Sansom

I was asked if I would write a remembrance about our favorite weatherman, Barry ZeVan. When I first saw Barry as a high school senior (1974), he was forecasting Twin Cities weather playing a game of peek-a-boo with the television camera.  It was a funny, unique approach, all Barry’s.

Years passed.  Because of my work shifts, I never saw him on television again. Then in the early 2000’s, I had become involved with the MN AFL-CIO.  In an email about the State Fair booth, I noticed the name “Barry ZeVan”. Being the smart aleck I am, I responded, “Hey I knew that name years ago, Barry ZeVan the Weatherman” to which Barry responded that was him. Wow! This guy, a local celebrity, was active with the state AFL-CIO! I was impressed.

Years later when I became involved with the MN State Retiree Council, AFL-CIO. In 2015, the Democratic National Committee came to Minnesota and Retiree Council members attended their Senior Caucus.  There was Barry performing a FDR “Fireside Chat” - he was incredible and sounded so much like Pres. Roosevelt.  

Barry was chair of our Retiree Council Veteran’s Committee. At the December Board meeting he gave the Veteran’s Committee report and latest Honor Flight numbers.  So I reported on my London Veterans Day Weekend (in England, it’s called Remembrance Day).   We stopped in the local pub, where there were dozens of men dressed in long coats with military decorations displayed-campaign ribbons from Ireland, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Vietnam, Korea, Falklands. We celebrated with them. Barry smiled, gave me a hug and thanked me for sharing this story.

After reading Barry’s Memoir, “My Life Among the Giants”, I realized Barry himself was a giant; he knew news and weather broadcast personalities, movie and television actors/actresses, politicians, presidents and world leaders. In the short time I associated with Barry ZeVan, I found a warm, caring, passionate person – not a typical celebrity one reads or hears about. Barry was humble and caring, a proud union activist and a strong advocate for seniors and Veterans.

In the final years of his life when cancer was working to take him down, Barry put on a happy face and pressed on determined not to give the nasty “C” a victory.  Barry, thank you for your military service; thank you for your union service and thank you for everything you did for others during your remarkable career. I am honored to have counted you among my friends. Rest in Peace, Barry ZeVan the Weatherman, it is well deserved. 

Editor’s Note:  Barry ZeVan was a long-time SAG AFTRA member and according to co-workers there was known as “Mr. Union”.  He had been inducted into the Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame.  He died in January 2020 and is survived by his wife Ellen Hanson-ZeVan, his daughter Shaunda, her husband and children and grandchildren.  Our sympathies to his family.