If the new face around town in recent months has that strangely familiar look, you may be a WSBT-TV viewer, and you may have seen Erik Larson, as likely as not alongside his wife (as of New Years Eve) Savanna, formerly Shepard.
It’s no surprise Larson, a South Bend native and meteorologist, is recognizable. He certainly logged a great deal of face time over the past year as weather anchor on the CBS affiliate station, thanks to the pregnancies of two regular anchors. The relevance of those pregnancies to his work at the station is all the more poignant to Larson, who with his new wife is expecting his own first child, in July (Savanna’s son Jack, who will turn 4 in May, is looking forward to having a baby brother).
Erik Larson, a graduate of Adams High School in South Bend, says his interest in meteorology began in high school, where he made the decision to pursue its study professionally. He undertook that study at Purdue University, where he was also in charge of “the huge bass drum” in the band.
“I got really lucky,” says Larson, who graduated from Purdue last spring. “I was still in school in April (2011) when I got a call from WSBT. They asked if I wanted a job.”
Having already interned the previous summer at the station, Larson was a natural choice to fill in for Cari Peugeot and Abby Weppler, who became pregnant one month apart. Thus, even before graduating from Purdue, Larson had signed a contract and was making trips to the station for training. The weekend after graduation, he took part in his first broadcasts.
Another good reason for Larson’s recognizable face: his initial on-air run included 40 continuous days.
“It ended up Cari (delivered) a day early,” he recalls, “so there was no time off between stopping that and the next shift, so I for three months I was doing six out of seven shifts. I had 12 days off in a five-month span.”
Since Peugeot’s return, Larson’s regular shift has been Thursdays through Sundays, plus any additional fill-in work. Usually, he’s giving a standard weather report or “light” reporting of a meteorological nature, in the field.
Larson says all those days on the public’s television screens helped him become well-known in South Bend, and yes, also in Culver, where -- naturally enough -- he’s often out and about with his wife.
Those Culverites who don’t know Savanna Shepard may well know her mother, Yvonne, who has worked in the Culver Elementary School office for several years now. Savanna and Erik met through a mutual friend at WSBT. The two communicated about a week before they set up a date, and Larson visited Culver, where “we just went walking down by the Academy.”
The two chuckle at the first-date memory of seeing a just-married couple exiting Culver Academies’ Memorial Chapel. Both thought the same thing: they hoped to someday be that couple, at that site, themselves.
Wedding plans eventually began to fall together for a small, New Years Eve affair with some 40 close friends and family, at the Culver Cove, with a reception at the Edgewater Banquet Center on Lake Shore Drive. Since then, of course, Erik Laron has been a fixture in the area -- that is, when he’s not preparing for, or taking part in, his on-air appearances.
Erik plans to stay in meteorology, though the commute to South Bend will likely prevent his and Savanna’s staying here in perpetuity. For the time being, however, the two are relishing their time on Maxinkuckee’s shores.
“It’s such a family town,” says Savanna. “Our hearts will always be in Culver.”