WSBT couldn’t launch a nationwide search to replace either meteorologist, because both planned to return to work after their maternity leaves. The station had to improvise.
“First, we turned to Erik Larson,” John said. “Erik had been an intern for us in the weather department. He was a local guy, an Adams High grad, and he had just graduated from Purdue with a meteorology degree. He agreed to step in and begin training in anticipation of the births.”
Then, right on schedule, the babies were born. Abby was first, giving birth to Brayden Timothy on July 18. Cari followed almost exactly a month later with Leo William, born on August 21. Both mothers and babies are doing great.
“So just like that, Abby and Cari were gone,” John continued. “And suddenly Erik was working night and day. We had to find additional help.”
That’s when he found meteorologist Cheryl Lemke, a 20-year veteran of the Weather Channel, though most recently with WXIA-TV in Atlanta. Cheryl had worked for a time in Terre Haute early in her career, and her schedule allowed her to come to South Bend in an interim capacity to take over WSBT’s weekday evening and nighttime newscasts.
“WSBT has always been committed to bringing our viewers the best weather coverage we can,” John said. “We are more than fortunate to have Cheryl join our team for the next few months, as Cari and Abby enjoy being first-time moms. Her professionalism and many years of experience as a Weather Channel meteorologist mean WSBT-TV won’t miss a beat.”
In the meantime, Abby, Brayden, Cari and Leo are getting to know one another, up close and personal. And they couldn’t be happier to have a pro like Cheryl filling their shoes.
“I’m very excited about all the experiences I will have over the next few months with my new son,” Cari said. “I’m also very happy that the weather department will be in great hands. I used to watch Cheryl in the morning on the Weather Channel, and I think everyone will enjoy getting their forecast from her. I’m very glad she’s willing to be here at WSBT!”
Abby agrees. "Words cannot express how being a first-time mom has changed my life! My husband and I fall more in love with Brayden every day. It's so reassuring to know we have someone as skilled as Cheryl to take charge of the weather department while I enjoy these first few months. Though I am excited to get back to work, knowing she will be there to keep our viewers informed has kept me focused on my growing family."
John Haferkamp took a final moment to assess the past couple of months. “When I became news director at WSBT, I thought I was prepared for all that came with it,” he said. “The shootings, the accidents, the budget battles, the long days and nights. I never anticipated losing two very popular meteorologists to maternity leave in a matter of weeks from one another.
“You know the saying: ‘someday you’ll look back at this and laugh’?” He shook his head. “I’m not quite laughing yet, but with Cheryl in place and the new moms and babies healthy, I can look back and chuckle…sort of.”
- Bob Johnson
Who is Cheryl Lemke? In her own words...
I was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. Growing up in "Tornado Alley" I developed a curiosity and fascination for weather. Ever since I was a child, I was always intrigued with clouds and storms. I used to love sitting out on the front porch watching the storms roll through and viewing the lightning display. And nothing beats that smell of "fresh air" after the storms would pass.
So once I got to college, I knew I wanted to study meteorology. I received my bachelor's degree in meteorology from Iowa State University with a double minor in mathematics and psychology.
I began my broadcasting career at WTHI-TV in Terre Haute, Indiana. Eventually I went on to work for a number of years at The Weather Channel in Atlanta. Most recently, prior to working at WSBT, I worked at WXIA-TV in Atlanta as a weather anchor and weather producer.
I have my American Meteorological Society and National Weather Service Television Seals of Approval, and was recently awarded a Distinguished Alumni Award from Iowa State University.
In my spare time, I love bicycling and just spending time outdoors. I am especially fond of hot weather and often take trips to the Southwest where I love to go on adventure hikes near Death Valley National Park.
I am also an avid animal lover. Right now I have an eclectic mix of pets ranging from a guinea pig to koi fish to a huge pet bullfrog.