When WTNH announced on Tuesday that meteorologist Mel Goldstein had retired from his longtime weather forecasting job at the television station, it was like the second earthquake rumbling through Connecticut that day.
Dr. Mel, as most people know him, is one of the most well-known figures in the state, having served as a full-time weatherman for the New Haven television station since 1986.
"I love the weather, and I love communicating with people," he said on Wednesday while relaxing at his shoreline house in East Haven.
Goldstein said he didn’t want to retire, but he had to because of his health. He has been treated for nearly 16 years for multiple myeloma, a form of bone cancer that affects the body’s immune system.
He said the nurses at Connecticut Hospice said his cancer had taken such a toll over the years that continuing to keep up his busy work schedule might kill him.
But on Wednesday he was as cheerful as someone could be who was on pain medication for a serious disease and preparing to board up his house as a precaution against an approaching hurricane.
Mentioning unleashed a torrent of historical hurricane facts about Connecticut. The last hurricane to hit the state was Bob in 1991, but that was only a glancing blow. Hurricane Gloria in 1985 caused the greatest number of power outages ever. But for a real hurricane, Mel said you had to go back to the storms of 1954 and 1955.
"The 50s was really the decade when we were hit hard," he said.
He confessed he’s been tracking the progress of Hurricane Irene all week. "It’s so typical," he said. "A slight shift could make the difference between a slight rainstorm or a full-blown hurricane."
Even with his own house threatened by a potentially serious storm, Goldstein couldn’t be down beat about anything. "Call me a happy guy," he said. "I’ve got to live a dream."
He said he became an enthusiast about the weather when he was about five years old, and throughout his life he has thought about nothing else.
After becoming a meteorologist, he took a teaching job at Western Connecticut State University and started a bachelor’s degree program and the WestConn Weather Center for trainee weathermen and women.
He has written two books about his specialty — "The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Weather" and "Dr. Mel’s Connecticut Climate Book," which includes the treasure trove of Connecticut weather data he has collected over the years.
"I’ve done everything that I’ve wanted to do," he said.
Goldstein said he is continuing to raise money for multiple myeloma research and update a personal website as an information resource for people want to know about the disease. And he is working on a book about people who courageously fought against multiple myeloma.
Originally, he was going to call the book "Sketches of Strength," but so many of the people whose stories he featured in it had passed away that he set it aside for several years and turned to the "Connecticut Climate Book" instead.
But lately he has gone back and reworked it with a new title, "Still Standing Tall," focusing on the legacy of those people with the disease. Of course, he will include an autobiographical chapter.
Goldstein said when he was first diagnosed with the disease, doctors gave him three years to live. But more than 15 years later, he is still going strong.
"Here I am, 16 years later, and I’m still around," he said. "The day isn’t over for me."
But the cancer has weakened his bones and made him susceptible to fractures. Pain medication makes him dizzy, which has caused him to fall, breaking several ribs and his pelvis twice.
Finally, he heeded the warning from his hospice nurses and announced his retirement.
"I don’t think I could live very long at the pace I was on, and I don’t think I could function for long at that pace," he said.
Goldstein said it was time for him to step aside and let a younger meteorologist take his place. But no sooner than he retired, and the Connecticut Hospice in Branford contacted him about recording a promotional video.