Chet Curtis, the fatherly journalist who guided New England through news events big and small for nearly five decades on television, died last night after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 74.
WCVB-TV devoted nearly all of it's early evening news tonight to Curtis' career. Though he migrated to Boston's NECN in 2000, his long association with Channel 5 is what audiences remember best.
Chet Curtis was born in Amsterdam, N.Y., and began his news career in the 1970s. His on-air chemistry with fellow anchor Natalie Jacobsen worked off-camera as well, and the two were married for nearly 25 years before divorcing in 1999. During that time "Chet and Nat" calmly and authoritatively covered the news and donated their time to various charitable causes, while raising their daughter Lindsay who was born in 1981.
Curtis's fight against cancer was no secret. He attended his daughter's June wedding in a wheel chair. His weight loss was considerable. His induction into the New England Broadcaster's Hall of Fame last September showed a particularly frail man who appeared far older than his years.
Watching the retrospective on Curtis brought me back to my childhood in Worcester in the 1970s. Chet and Nat's ease in front of the camera, their ability to make an important and influential job appear enjoyable and fun had a profound impact on me. They more than anyone else on television at the time made me want to work on TV too. And so I did. For more than two decades.
Natalie spoke through tears on the news tonight, to say how moved she was that Chet was well enough to attend their daughter's wedding; today so "sad that Chet died early".
After the famous pair disbanded at home and in front of the camera, New England television news was never the same. Natalie herself retired a few years ago. Today the absurdly talented news department is more of an ensemble than the supporting players for local television royalty. It's the way TV news is everywhere now.
Chet Curtis was the go-to guy for the big interviews and every New Englander of a certain age feels the loss. For all his experience and exposure to newsmakers and king pins, it is the way he talked to the rest of us at home every night that will be his most important legacy.