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Goodbye Gary: Kansas City celebrates retirement of Gary Lezak

Posted at 5:15 PM, Dec 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-02 06:11:09-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Past and present Kansas Citians celebrated the retirement of long-time KSHB 41 Chief Meteorologist Gary Lezak Thursday night.

Gary’s final newscast included a weather report - of course! - but also included tributes from former colleagues and leaders from across Kansas City.

The KSHB 41 weather team, including Lindsey Anderson, Jeff Penner and Wes Peery all offered their best wishes to Gary in retirement.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D - Kansas City) and Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas were among those who wished Gary the best.

Dec. 1, 2022, was marked as Gary Lezak Day in Kansas City.

Former anchor colleagues Elizabeth Alex, Mike Marusarz, Rhiannon Ally and Frank Boal were among those who offered tributes.

In a nod to Gary’s efforts toward fundraising for pets, staff at Wayside Waifs raised a celebratory paw.

Gary’s fascination with weather started as a hobby when he was 5 years old. He would look forward to those rainy days, but also kept his eye to the sky. After high school in 1980, Gary attended the University of Oklahoma where his hobby turned into a career. In 1985, he graduated with his Bachelor of Science degree in meteorology and started what would become a legendary broadcast career.

Gary didn’t have to go far for his first major on-air meteorologist job. In 1986, he became the morning meteorologist at KWTV-TV in Oklahoma City. In 1992, Gary moved to Kansas City, where he has now been for nearly 30 years. Gary began developing his deep-rooted relationship with the Kansas City community through live shots and events all over the region, celebrating the unique places and helping people get ready for their days.

In 1999, Gary became chief meteorologist at KSHB 41. He established himself and his weather team as the most accurate in Kansas City, winning several WeatheRate awards for being most accurate. Gary has been on the air for some of the biggest weather events in Kansas City history including the May 4, 2003, tornado and the May 28, 2019, tornado.

In 2021, Gary marked the 10-year anniversary of the deadly Joplin tornado by traveling to the city to tell stories about the lessons learned that will make people’s lives safer across the Midwest.

An animal lover, Gary has given time and support to the causes he is most passionate about. Gary has been the emcee of the Wayside Waifs Fur Ball for 18 years and helped the organization raise more than $25 million over nearly two decades. Additionally, Gary has hosted 20 pet telethons raising over $2 million. He’s also hosted the Dog-N-Jog benefitting the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City for 25 years. Gary has been known to share airtime with his well- known dogs Sunny and Rainbow

By far, the biggest challenge in Gary's life was when he was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer called extra- skeletal osteogenic sarcoma in 1999. The doctors discovered it was very aggressive and recommended Gary undergo extensive chemotherapy to ensure the cancer was removed from his body. Two surgeries to remove the cancer were performed before chemotherapy treatments could begin. Gary is now cancer-free since 2000 and celebrates every day! He shares his cancer experience and his passion for weather at the annual Cancer Action Volunteer Awards Banquet he has emceed for 20 years.

Gary plans to pursue his passion for long-range weather forecasting through his entrepreneurial efforts that could save lives during severe weather events.

“It’s time to move on to my next journey in this incredible life we all have. Let’s all enjoy right now, and we can look forward to what is ahead of us,” Lezak said.

Thursday also included the official passing of “the clicker” to brand new KSHB 41 Weather Chief Meteorologist Mike Nicco.