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Chicago radio legend loses cancer battle

Chicago radio legend Don Wade lost his yearlong battle with brain cancer last Friday. He was 72.

Wade was best known as one half of the husband and wife broadcasting duo “Don Wade and Roma.”

Tributes to the Windy City broadcaster quickly poured in. His home station, WLS-AM, posted an affectionate memorial on their website:

“Don went out as he lived and broadcasted, like a lion. (…) After 55 years of broadcasting, culminating in 27 legendary years at WLS, the rock of Chicago, only a devastating health blow could have pried that microphone from his hands. With his adoring wife, co-host and co-conspirator at his side, Don waged a mighty year-long battle against the deadly brain tumor which finally silenced him.”

Wade’s career as a rock and roll DJ took him across the country before he finally landed at WLS-AM.

When the station switched formats from music to talk in 1989, Don Wade and Roma “were the only air talent asked to remain and try their skill at becoming morning talk show hosts,” according to the WLS-AM tribute.

“Suddenly Don’s rapier wit, piercing analysis and passionate oratory roared to the surface. He was a natural.”

Calling him “a pillar of talk radio,” the Chicago Tribune talked to colleagues who remembered Wade’s passion for “show prep,” often rising at midnight to prepare for his 5 a.m. show.

Tribune columnist John Kass created a brief video tribute to Wade, calling him “the voice of Chicago” and “a class guy.”

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the station announced Wade’s passing on its website on Sunday night; by 10 p.m., tens of thousands of condolence messages had been sent to Roma Wade via the [email protected] email address that had been created a year earlier, when Don made his illness public.

Roma’s own touching message began:

“Last Friday morning, my hero, my best friend, my soulmate left this mortal coil behind and entered the realm of spirit while wrapped in my loving arms. God blessed us with almost an entire year since Don’s surgery to embrace life, love, family, and adventure, all while knowing that his time on this beautiful earth was drawing to a close. What a gift! What a joy to be entrusted with my magnificent man’s care for that precious time.

“I love him more than life itself.”

In lieu of flowers, Wade’s family invites listeners to make a donation to the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind or the Boy Scouts of America.