WLS remembers the great Don Wade

Don Wade

Don Wade

The life and legacy of legendary Chicago radio personality Don Wade will be celebrated in a special broadcast from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday on WLS AM 890.

News anchor John Dempsey will host the tribute to Wade, the highly regarded morning star of the Cumulus Media news/talk station for more than 25 years. Included will be audio highlights of Wade's 55-year career in broadcasting, interviews with friends and colleagues, and comments from listeners.

Wade, who was 72, died Sept. 6, just days short of a year after he suffered a seizure and later was diagnosed with brain cancer. He'd been off the air since then and officially announced his retirement in December.

From 2007 on, Dempsey served as news anchor on the morning show Wade hosted with his wife Roma. Dempsey called Wade "one of the most brilliant radio personalities ever, and one of the kindest people I have ever known."

Plans for a public memorial service have not been announced.

Wade's death prompted an outpouring of calls, letters and emails to WLS. Among them were tributes from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Governor Pat Quinn and U.S. Senator Mark Kirk:


Mayor Rahm Emanuel:

“As a city, we are saddened to hear of the passing of Don Wade. For nearly three decades, Don entertained and enlightened his listeners, and the lifetime of contributions he made to our city will be truly missed. Don’s zeal for his job was matched only by his love for his wife Roma, and though
his voice has fallen silent, his influence will echo on in Chicago for years to come.”


Governor Pat Quinn:

“Don Wade wasn’t only a legendary radio star, he was a devoted husband and father who knew the value of family.

“When you were on the air with Don, you could tell he and Roma were made for each other. Their partnership attracted millions of listeners over their historic career and set a high bar for success in Chicago radio.

“I admired not only their passion for family and compelling radio, but also their commitment to our nation’s veterans. Don earned a place in Chicago’s heart.

“My sincere sympathies and prayers are with Roma, Hunter, Heather and their entire family.”


U.S. Senator Mark Kirk:

“During my tenure in Congress, Don and Roma were always gracious to allow me on their show to discuss some of the most important issues facing America. Don's depth of knowledge as to what was happening in Chicago and throughout the world was second to none. 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.

“After becoming both an avid listener and regular guest on the show, I learned of Don and Roma's commitment to an issue near and dear to my heart — veterans. Soon I met their son, Hunter, a U.S. Marine, who flew with the Blue Angels. Don was a proud and devoted father, and he and Roma traveled all over the country to watch Hunter fly. Whenever they were in Washington, we would get together for a quick bite where Don and Hunter would bestow the virtues of the Army and Marines and I would remind them that were it not for the Navy they would never make it anywhere.

“In 2010, Don and Roma were the first to reach out and say they were coming to Washington to broadcast live at my U.S. Senate swearing-in ceremony. That was pretty spectacular.

“While recovering from my stroke, Don and Roma often sent heartfelt notes of encouragement. It was only a few weeks before my return to the senate that I learned of their retirement and of Don's diagnosis. I was saddened but also knew that Don was a fighter. I often tell people the one thing I learned from my stroke is to never ever give up and I knew Don wouldn't, nor did he. Don never gave up on the people of Illinois, fighting vociferously for a cleaner state government, fighting for what he knew was right, and he never gave up fighting the cancer that eventually took him. That's the Don I knew and loved — a legend in his own right.”