SCHENECTADY — Louise Woodruff Marshall, who was an early and pioneering “weather girl” at WRGB Channel 6 in Schenectady in the 1960s and early 1970s, has died as the result of COVID-19, her family said.
Marshall, who was 97, had been a long-time resident of the Beverwyck, a senior living community in Slingerlands. She died April 25 at a nursing facility in Needham, Massachusetts, where she had moved in February to be closer to her son and daughter.
Known on-air as Louise Woodruff or simply “Louise With the Weather,” she was one of the first on-air female weather forecasters in the country, and also had a long and public life in the Albany/Schenectady area, said her daughter, Paulyn Heinmiller.
At the time, a female weather forecaster was so unusual that Woodruff once appeared on the CBS game show, “What’s My Line?” to try to stump panelists. (The final of four panelists guested right.)
“She was in her 30s, she hated being called a ‘girl,’ but that is how it was marketed, the ‘weather girl,'” Heinmiller said on Friday. “They wouldn’t give her a desk [in the newsroom] because it was all men, they didn’t want a girl in there. It was a different, different world, but she managed to rise above that.”
While station management wouldn’t tell Woodruff her ratings, according to Heinmiller, “we knew when we went out with our mom that people would stop us, up and down the street. She was very, very popular.”
Born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1923, Woodruff was schooled by her mother in diction, elocution and mellifluous speaking, which was to benefit her later. After graduating from New Jersey State Teachers College in 1944, she moved to Schenectady to teach elementary school. She became active in the Schenectady Civic Playhouse and Malden Bridge Playhouse, and that led to work in local radio and television, including live commercials. She married General Electric engineer and writer Paul R. Heinmiller in 1948, and was raising a family while making brief TV appearances. Paul Heinmiller died in 1969.
“She would do live on-air commercials, no teleprompter, they would be frying bacon in a pan,” Heinmiller recalled.
Woodruff joined WRGB as a weekend weather personality in 1965, and was “Louise With The Weather” until she left in 1972. During her first years on the job, she studied meteorology, even though at that time it wasn’t a requirement for the job.
The weather maps were far from today’s computer-graphics heavy presentations. “She would hand-draw on a map. She had a really good ability to drawn stuff on a board, the highs and lows and clouds,” her daughter said.
In 1972, she left WRGB to marry GE executive W. John Marshall, and they moved to Bilbao, Spain, where she learned Spanish and studied Basque. They returned to the United States after a decade and settling in the West Hill neighborhood of Rotterdam. After retirement, the couple traveled extensively and patronized the arts, attending many performances. Her husband died in 1998.
She is survived by her daughter and a son, Glen Heinmiller; a step-son, David Marshall, four grand-children, and three great-grandchildren.
There will be a celebration of her life at a future date. Donations in her name can be made to the Albany Symphony.