Cindy Gatziolis made events special

Cindy Gatziolis

Cindy Gatziolis

If you ever attended the Chicago Blues Festival, Taste of Chicago or the Air & Water Show, you knew the work of Cindy Gatziolis. And if you ever listened to Larry Lujack, Wally Phillips, Fred Winston, Steve Dahl or Jonathon Brandmeier, you knew it too.

Gatziolis, who worked closely with Chicago’s biggest radio personalities for two decades before leading the promotion of the city’s most popular special events, died Saturday after a long battle with cancer. She was 56.

Last December, Gatziolis stepped down after 13 years as director of public relations and marketing for the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. In addition to promoting dozens of annual fairs, festivals and public commemorations, she served as spokesperson for the department and managed media efforts for the city’s massive celebrations of the White Sox and Blackhawks championships.

A dedicated and hard-working professional, Gatziolis was trusted and admired by countless friends in the media, who mourned her passing over the weekend.

“Cindy Gatziolis . . . held together hundreds of radio emergencies,” Janet Dahl, wife of radio personality Steve Dahl, wrote in a Facebook tribute. “She then moved on to try to keep Chicago rocking and rolling through its special events, most famously Taste of Chicago. Her only language was kindness. A magical person, she is gone far too soon.”

John Records Landecker called her “a fantastic person.” Kevin Matthews called her “my hero.” Dave Hoekstra called her “a class act.”

A Chicago native and journalism graduate of the University of Michigan, Gatziolis began as a programming assistant and producer of Lujack’s morning show at WLS AM 890. She later worked in creative services at WGN AM 720 before becoming director of promotion and marketing at WLUP FM 97.9 and the former WLUP AM 1000 and at the former WMAQ AM 670. In 2000, she left radio to become regional marketing manager for General Cinema Theatres (now AMC). She went to work for City Hall the following year.

Besides working with her longtime radio idol Lujack, the highlight of Gatziolis’ broadcast career likely was the seven years she spent at the Loop during its absolute zenith of popularity and lunacy.

In a 2008 Q&A with Rick Kaempfer, Gatziolis said: “I do recall one day that was nearly 24 hours, waking up at 3 a.m. to be at a Dahl and Meier remote, working on all sorts of details for the Brandmeier 10-year anniversary show during the day, resting a couple hours and going to a Danny Bonaduce event that went until about 2 a.m.

“What made it possible for me to do the job without going insane is that I believed in those shows, and that goes for all of them . . . the FM jocks like Skafish and Stroud and Wendy Snyder, who maybe didn’t have the light shining on them as often. There will never be a more perfect job for me than that one, and I truly loved all those people. I still try to follow, listen, read, etc. about all of them. I was a very lucky radio person.”

Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Peterson-Bassi Chapel, 6938 West North Avenue. Funeral will be at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, 601 South Central Avenue.