For more than 8 decades, N.Y. farmer has kept eye to the sky
BRIDGEHAMPTON, N.Y. — It takes only a couple of minutes, twice a day, but 101-year-old Richard Hendrickson is fiercely proud that he has done the same thing for his country and community nearly every day since Herbert Hoover was in the White House in 1930.
The retired chicken and dairy farmer, whose home sits in the heart of the ritzy Hamptons, has been recording daily readings of temperature and precipitation on eastern Long Island longer than any National Weather Service volunteer observer.
The Weather Service will honor Hendrickson on Sunday by naming its 80-year service award in his honor. Over 84 years, Hendrickson has provided invaluable data that helps meteorologists analyze impending storms and information that tracks long-term climate change and other trends.
Hendrickson, who lives on part of the Bridgehampton property his family has owned for nearly a century, explained that agriculture and weather are inextricably linked.
“I've been a farmer all my life,” he said. “You don't cut hay today and let it dry in the field if you know it's going to rain tomorrow. You try to be your own weatherman.”
Hendrickson has had a lifelong interest in nature, weather and history. In 1996, he wrote and published a book called “Winds of the Fish's Tail,” a nod to the region's resemblance to the fins of a fish.
For years, he wrote monthly weather summaries for local weekly newspapers.
The National Weather Service's Cooperative Observer Program has 8,700 volunteer observers across the country, a program that has provided scientists and researchers with data for more than a century. Tim Morrin, a program leader, said that though Hendrickson has taken days off because of health or other commitments, his daily report is one of the highlights of Morrin's job.
“We just love hearing his voice,” Morrin said, adding that 80 years of continuous data from a single source is invaluable to researchers.