Al Roker is one of TV’s nicest guys. The lovable weatherman has become the man to whom NBC viewers turn to learn how the weather’s going to be treating us, and his sunny demeanor has had everyone hooked for more than four decades.
That’s when plenty of famous faces also had sweet things to say about the star, including his co-star Savannah Guthrie, who gushed, “He never forgets how lucky he is to do this job, to interview all of our idols, to get to make people laugh and share a little bit of their lives — it’s contagious.”
The big celebration inspired Roker to share a few words of wisdom from his father, telling viewers, “My dad always said if you can look in the mirror and say you’ve done your best at the end of the day and you like the people you work with, you’ve had a good day.”
But, unfortunately, Roker’s life hasn’t been filled with all good days. The star has had quite a few bumps in the road to the incredible success we see him enjoying today, though the “Today” veteran definitely hasn’t let them hold him back. Let’s take a look at some of Al Roker’s adversities and the inspiring ways he overcame sadness to find and spread joy once again.
A Cancer Diagnosis
One of Al Roker’s most public tragedies came when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in November 2020. Roker announced the news on “Today,” sharing he’d undergo a five-hour surgery the next week to remove his prostate.
“It’s a good news-bad news kind of thing. Good news is we caught it early. Not great news is that it’s a little aggressive, so I’m going to be taking some time off to take care of this,” he shared, noting he decided to make his diagnosis public in the hopes of highlighting the issue amongst other Black men.
The following February, Roker gave an update on “The Kelly Clarkson Show,” sharing, “I was very fortunate. We caught it early. It was an aggressive form of prostate cancer, but we caught it very early.”
Roker added that his surgeon felt he got all the prostate and the cancer out, but noted he will have to continue to get his prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels checked every six months for five years after his diagnosis. One of the toughest parts, though?
Telling his family the tragic news. Speaking to The Patient Story, Roker revealed that his son, Nick Roker — who is on the autism spectrum — took it particularly hard. “He was really upset and was kind of reacting,” the weatherman recalled.
Sadly, Al Roker hasn’t been able to escape the horrific experience of racism during his life and career. Roker has been pretty vocal about his run-ins with prejudiced people, including highlighting a particularly harrowing incident with a taxi driver in New York City.
In 2015, Roker claimed a NYC Yellow taxi driver refused to stop for him and his autistic son and instead moved further along to pick up a white person. The “Today” star revealed in a tweet that he “filed a complaint” about the incident, adding, “Hopefully @nyctaxi weeds out the bad apples. Looking forward to a hearing and dealing with this. I will keep you posted.”
Things escalated from there, and The Taxi & Limousine Commission hit the driver with the option of paying a $500 fine or having a hearing to determine exactly what happened. The driver seemingly chose the latter, and it was reported by TMZ that the same person had already been fined once before for the same offense. A few months later, Page Six confirmed that the cabbie pleaded guilty to refusing to pick the Rokers up and was fined $500.
A Tough Path To Success
Though Al Roker is one of the most successful weathermen in history, his path to stardom was not an easy one. Roker has experienced some difficult times, including facing racism and prejudice in the workplace, which meant he felt he had to work much harder than his white colleagues.
“When I was coming up, there were no jobs that I wouldn’t do when I was starting out in television,” he told The Hollywood Reporter, also referring to a very frank conversation he had with his dad, who told him, “‘It’s not a fair world out there. You are going to have to work twice as hard and be twice as good to get half as far as the white kid next to you.'”
The star also got candid about his experience in his 2020 book, “You Look So Much Better in Person,” where he recalled a racially aggravated incident that occurred on air while he was working in Cleveland. He elaborated about the incident on “Today,” recalling how a colleague was once hit with a newspaper by a Black man.
“The next day we get on the air and his wife, Mona, is about to introduce me, and he goes, ‘Mona, before you introduce Al, Al I don’t know if you know this, but last night, one of your people attacked me.”’ Roker recalled being horrified by the incident, before retorting, “‘Doug why would a weatherman attack you?’ And then just went into the weather.”
Car Crash Aftermath
Al Roker has certainly had his fair share of health issues, and has had a particularly tough time due to his involvement in a past car crash. In 2001, Roker took some time off from “Today” to get total knee replacement surgery, revealing his pain came from an accident he’d had 15 years earlier that had a lasting effect on his leg.
“My upper leg drove into the lower leg, and there are pins and screws and a plate — it’s a mess,″ Roker told USA Today (via AP News). Not too much is known about the accident itself, but it certainly had a lasting effect on the weatherman.
He shared on his website, via Knee1.com, that he was only able to extend his knee to 80 degrees at first, and he had to re-learn to do everything from walking to bending down. “Due to complications, I was in the hospital for 11 days,” he said, per “Today.”
Sadly, that wasn’t all Roker had to deal with as a result of the crash. In 2016, he underwent the knife once again for a second knee surgery he’d put off for several years. “Sometimes your body talks to you. Mine was yelling at me that I needed to do something about my knee,” he said (via Illinois Bone & Joint Institute). “Today” cameras were filming when Roker took his first steps on his new knee and joked that he’d been superglued back together.
One of Al Roker’s most public struggles has been with his weight. Roker has had a strained relationship with food and fans have seen how the weatherman’s weight has fluctuated. He’s also spoken candidly about the effects it’s had on his life — including his marriage.
Speaking on “Today” in 2013, Roker confessed his overeating stemmed from a love of food and a lack of self-confidence. Roker also shared that the death of his mom contributed to him eating more, telling Parade that he gained around 40 pounds in the following years, as he consoled himself with eating.
Roker’s weight also started to have a detrimental effect on his relationship with his wife, Deborah Roberts. Roker told “Today” that his weight issues and refusal to exercise “became a problem in [their] marriage.” He shared how Roberts would take care of their kids and go for a run, while he didn’t move from the couch.
“She was upset about it, she was frustrated, she was angry. She thought, ‘Why don’t you care enough about yourself and why don’t you care about me and our relationship enough to change?'”
Roker really turned his life around in 2011, when he promised his dad on his deathbed that he would get healthier after tipping the scales at around 340 pounds. He revealed in his book, “Never Goin’ Back: Winning the Weight Loss Battle for Good,” that promise gave him a sense of “guilt and massive responsibility,” which resulted in his gastric bypass surgery.
In addition to undergoing gastric bypass surgery, surgery to remove the cancer in his prostate, and surgeries following his car accident, Al Roker has gone under the knife several other times after being plagued by health issues over the years. In 2020, he revealed on “Today” that he’d had to have shoulder surgery after feeling “intense pain” due to arthritis in his shoulder.
“I’ve only been sleeping about two or three hours a night, which even for me is a little bit less,” he admitted on “Today.” The surgery actually marked his second for the same issue, as he’d battled pain in his shoulder for several years and had the rotator cuff in his left shoulder repaired in 2014.
But that’s far from all he’s undergone. In September 2019, Roker shared he was having problems with his hip and back. “All of a sudden, I started feeling this twinge in my hip, and then my back was acting up.
It seems like my hip went fairly quickly,” he said on “Today,” admitting that — although the pain wasn’t excruciating — he could definitely feel that something was wrong. He announced he’d be taking some time away from the NBC morning show to have hip replacement surgery, and gave fans an update shortly after.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Roker’s hip surgery came almost exactly a year after he had to undergo emergency carpal tunnel surgery. No wonder he joked on “Today” that he was “slowly replacing this body!”
A Rocky Road To Love
For Al Roker, the road to true love did not run smoothly, as Roker was actually reportedly married twice before finding love with his current wife, Deborah Roberts. Very little is known about his first wife, though we know that he shares an adopted daughter, Courtney Roker, with his second wife, Alice Bell. Al and Bell were married for 10 years before divorcing, according to AmoMama, finalizing things in 1994.
However, when Al embarked on a new romance with Roberts, Courtney wasn’t accepting of their relationship. “Since Al came to the relationship with an ex-wife and a daughter, we were destined for complications.
I thought our happiness and love would cure any problems we faced, but that was wishful thinking,” Roberts wrote in her and Al’s book, “Been There, Done That: Family Wisdom For Modern Times.” Roberts added, “Al felt a tremendous amount of guilt” about splitting with Courtney’s mom, and, “like any child of divorce, she was hurting and blamed me for her broken family.
Of course, I wasn’t the reason her parents divorced, but that didn’t matter to Courtney.” Roberts shared disagreements would happen because Al felt a little torn between her and Courtney, describing it as “the classic struggle that so many blended families feel and deal with.”
Fortunately, things seem to be much better today, and March 2022 even saw Al share a sweet family snap to Instagram that featured the entire clan in matching clothing.
Al Roker has sadly had to deal with some personal deaths in his life. As we already know, the deaths of his mom and dad had a profound effect on his health, but they’re unfortunately far from the only people close to him that the weatherman has lost over the years.
In February 2021, Roker shared the passing of a close family friend just days before her 100th birthday. Roker paid tribute to Rosa Maria Delgado Garri on Instagram, sharing a sepia-toned photo. He gave an insight into her life in the caption, writing, in part, “Escaping Castro’s Cuba, she and her husband, Gustavo made a life for their family in Miami. We were so fortunate to have known her. She was everyone’s #abuela and will be sorely missed.”
Tragedy also struck the family when Roker’s wife, Deborah Roberts, lost her brother-in-law, Lawrence Clarington, in February 2022. Roberts shared the sad news on Twitter, writing in part on the social media site, “My family’s heart is heavy with grief and loss.” She went on to describe him as being “a beautiful and optimistic soul” and a sports giant in his high school years. She also shared that he was married to her sister for 40 years, and concluded by asking people to pray for him.
A Difficult Childhood
Al Roker has been pretty candid about his own experiences as a child, and shared a touching insight into how he’s taken on being a parent to a child with learning difficulties in 2019. Al spoke to “Today” about his son, Nick Roker, admitting he believes if the world was as aware of autism when he was growing up as it is today, he likely would have been considered to be on the spectrum when he was growing up.
“I see many of the things in my son in me. Maybe a part of that is I feel a little guilty about that,” he said at the time. Al also opened up about his experience caring for a child with autism and credited his wife, Deborah Roberts, for helping to pull him through some tougher moments, admitting, “sometimes I tend to go to a dark place about it.”
Al also spoke openly about his experience in an in-depth piece for Guide Posts that year. “Do I get frustrated with my son sometimes? You bet,” he wrote. “But then I remember my dad, how understanding he was. And Deborah reminds me that I have to show my son not only that I love him but that I like him as well. More than that, I admire him.”
As for Nick, he’s gone on to become a very successful athlete, even winning two gold medals at the Special Olympics New York in 2019.