ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Recognized nationally for his bushy mustache, dark eyeglasses, signature bow tie and a funny, frenetic delivery, George Fischbeck, well-known television weatherman and science teacher, died early Wednesday at age 92.
“Dr. George,” as he was known, had been living in the Motion Picture & Television Fund retirement home in Woodland Hills, Calif.
Fischbeck became a phenomenon in Albuquerque as a television science teacher and TV meteorologist in the 1960s and early ’70s, before being lured to Los Angeles where he continued as a top rated TV weatherman and celebrity.
Fischbeck was born in New Jersey, where his exposure to immigrant workers from around the world on his family’s farm, sparked his interest in cultures.
He moved to Albuquerque in 1946 to study anthropology and archaeology at the University of New Mexico, and then received his master’s degree in education from UNM in 1955. He subsequently taught in the Albuquerque Public Schools for 23 years.
In 1959, the station manager at local PBS station, KNME-TV, Channel 5, asked Fischbeck if he wanted to do a 30 minute TV science program for Albuquerque students.
The program, “Science 5,” became so popular that the broadcast was picked up by schools in 25 cities around the country.
Fischbeck commented during a 2011 interview with the Journal that his years as a teacher, both in the classroom and in the TV studio, were his most enjoyable.
“Every day that I spent teaching was a day of happiness in my life,” he said. “Teaching is not an occupation to me. It’s a lifetime dream, the most important thing you can do.”
Heidi Bundy Brown remembers Fischbeck well. Her father, E. Wayne Bundy, was the KNME station manager who came up with the idea for the science show. She and her five siblings called Fischbeck “Uncle George,” and would often stop by the station after school to watch the show being filmed.
“Even when he was in front of the camera it seemed like he was talking to you directly,” said Bundy Brown, 54, now associate director of advancement for New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. “He still had that one-on-one relationship with you.”
Fischbeck was also a regular visitor to the family’s home. “At the dinner table he talked mostly about science. He could find science in anything. But it didn’t matter if he was talking about science or weather or life, he always had this big smile.”
Fischbeck didn’t have just a casual interest in weather, he was a trained meteorologist.
During the Korean War, he worked in the weather department for the New Mexico Air National Guard.
So it was not a stretch when in 1970 Fischbeck was hired to be the 6 and 10 p.m. weatherman on KOB-TV, Channel 4. Within weeks, the station’s newscast moved from second to first in the ratings. There, he worked with news anchor Johnny Morris.
“George was an amazing guy, an amazing personality,” said Morris, 91, during a phone conversation Wednesday. “He had a lot of knowledge about a lot of things, and people just loved him.
He was basically a school science teacher, and while doing the weather he’d do things like have tarantulas running up and down his arm.”
The theatrics, Morris said, often caused the weather segments to run long, “but nobody seemed to mind.”
Fischbeck moved to Los Angeles in 1972, after accepting a position as weatherman for KABC-TV. He retired in 1990, but returned to Los Angeles TV station KCBS in 1993 doing feature stories before retiring for good in 1997.
Fischbeck kept busy during his retirement, serving as a docent for the Los Angeles Zoo and helping raise funds for firefighter charities.
The last time he was in Albuquerque was in 2013, during a book signing tour to promote his memoir, “Dr. George, My Life in Weather,” which was published by the University of New Mexico Press. That same year Fischbeck was the inaugural inductee into the Wall of Fame, located Downtown in the Alvarado Transportation Center.
“Dr. George was more than just a New Mexico icon. He positively influenced the lives of thousands of New Mexicans through his classes, science show on public TV, and as a KOB-4 weatherman,” said Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry. “He made our city and state a better place to live, and for that we are eternally grateful.”
Fischbeck is survived by his wife of nearly 66 years, Susanne, daughter Nancy and a granddaughter. A son, George Jr., was killed in an accident in 1977 at age 22.