MAHOMET Longtime WICD-TV Channel 15 television personality Keith Page didn't start out to be one of the area's best known TV weathermen.
It was another of Mr. Page's passions magic that got him his start in TV, moonlighting from his regular job teaching drama in the Champaign Unit 4 schools as Marshall Magic, a cowboy magician on WCIA in 1955.
Mr. Page was still doing the weather and magic he retired from teaching in 1991 before Wednesday evening, when an accident apparently led to his death.
Champaign County Coroner Duane Northrup said Mr. Page, 76, of Mahomet, was pronounced dead at 8:09 p.m. Wednesday at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana because of injuries he received in a fall earlier at his home.
The fall apparently happened about 6 p.m., and Mr. Page may have fallen down the stairs.
"He received some head injuries," Northrup said.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete at the Morgan Memorial Home, 1304 Regency Drive West, Savoy.
Mr. Page received his bachelor's and master's degrees in theater education at the University of Illinois. He taught at Edison Middle School before his nearly 20-year stint at Champaign Centennial High School. He directed more than 100 shows at Centennial.
But he was the star of the show in his weathercasts and magic performances. He began every weather segment with a poem, all original and none of them ever repeated, according to Mr. Page's biography on the WICD Web site.
If he seemed to be having a good time, that's probably because he was.
"It's not a stressful part of my life," he told The News-Gazette in a 1991 interview. "I enjoy television."
He was "one continuing face through extreme upheaval at Channel 15 for four decades," said Loren Tate of The News-Gazette, who also worked at the television station in the 1960s and '70s in the sports department.
Tate recalled that in the early days, before high-tech equipment, Mr. Page's approach to meteorology was no-nonsense.
"The program was called Window on the Weather, and he would stand by an open window at the Inman Hotel and say what the weather was like outside," Tate said.
"He was a class guy," said Robert Reese, a WCIA broadcaster. "He's been doing weather at 15 since I was born," Reese said. "He was a nice man. I never heard him say an unpleasant word about anything."
Mr. Page also had hosted a public interest talk show, "Mosaic," on WILL-TV early in his career and a science show for children, "Tell Me Why." He was the voice of the puppets Honk and Toot on the children's show "Uncle Otto's General Store."
The weather job was only supposed to be temporary, he recalled in a 1987 interview with the newspaper. He said he viewed himself as an explainer.
"I think that's what teachers are, if they're doing their job right," he said. "They're communicators. I've always loved to do a weather feature, explain what makes lightning work."
Mr. Page also taught drama and music at Champaign schools and in summer youth programs.
U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, said Mr. Page was "extraordinary, unique, giving and kind there aren't enough adjectives to describe him." Johnson appeared in a celebrity play with Mr. Page.
Phil Bloomer, a spokesman for Johnson, grew up in Champaign and was in classes taught by Mr. Page.
"He was very strict, very demanding and very fun," Bloomer said. "He brought a wonderful combination of talents to class and for junior high kids to experience that was a special treat. He was quite an institution."
Mr. Page said he began doing magic at age 8 and was known for carrying rubber bands and playing cards, ready for the opportunity to perform. He did magic shows while he was a teacher, but increased the number after he retired.
Rick Bednar said Mr. Page was a talented magician who entertained on many different kinds of stages.
"He was very good at sleight of hand," said Bednar, who's also a magician. "He could also do clubs and stages. He worked at Round Barn Restaurant for years table hopping going from diner to diner entertaining. He was very versatile."