The Windy City echoed a little empty with the passing of radio personality Don Wade on Friday. Wade succumbed to a brain tumor with which he had fought for about a year; he was 72.
Colleagues are praising Wade and his years in broadcasting, adding up to over half a century. The majority of his career was at WLS-AM 890. Wade and his wife co-hosted a morning show, The Don Wade & Roma Show.
Reminiscences focus on a man some considered a, “lovable curmudgeon,” who woke in the wee hours of the morning to prep for his 5 am show. Former WLS General Manager Michael Damsky described Wade to the Chicago Tribune as relentless in researching his stories from all angles. Damsky said, “I think that Don was probably the most influential local, perspective-based host in Chicago… when it came to information and perspective, Don really was the gold standard.”
The radio host commanded the respect and trust of people like no other host, according to Damsky. “When there were big issues on the line that were of broad-based interest, people turned to Don. No one else ever commanded that kind of respect.”
Wade is also being remembered by former guests, including prominent Illinois politicians US Senator Mark Kirk, Governor Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Senator Kirk issued a statement discussing his time on the show, “It was always fun going on the air with Don, not only because of his insight but also the sense of humor that only he could bring to whatever issue we were discussing.”
“He wanted to make sure Chicagoans got the best, thought-provoking, entertaining information every day,” said Tracy Slutzkin who started producing the Wades’ in the 1990’s and is now WLS program director. She reported to the Chicago Sun Times that after the WLS website announced Wade’s passing on Sunday evening, by 10 pm, 10,000 emails had been sent to Roma via an email address provided there, wishing her and the family well.
Roma and the family have posted a letter of appreciation for the support of the fans on the WLS website. Roma had evidently posted a few updates on the WLS site over the preceding months, including that they enjoyed a week on a cruise to the Caribbean in July, “We had a ball!”
The WLS site says that Wade is survived by two children, Colonel Hunter Hobson and his wife, and Heather Hobson and her husband. He has three brothers, Ralph Reavis, Raynor Reavis and Tom Wehde and a number of nieces, nephews and cousins.
Fans are asked to make memorial donations to the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind or the Boy Scouts of America in lieu of flowers. Plans have yet to be announced for a public service, reports Eliot Ephraim, his agent and lawyer. These will be separate from private, family services.
Fans are expressing their condolences via social media as news spreads…
Thinking of the family of radio legend Don Wade @donandroma who passed away this weekend. I always enjoyed visiting with Don
— Senator Dan Coats (@SenDanCoats) September 9, 2013
— US99.5 Chicago (@US995) September 9, 2013
RIP to Don Wade, a radio legend and a wonderful man. http://t.co/0TJVibJBgJ
— Richard Roeper (@richardroeper) September 9, 2013
[Images via WLS Official Website.]