Chicago-area fans gather to watch Oprah finale

May 25, 2011 (FLOSSMOOR, Ill.)

A group of about 40 women got into the spirit of Oprah's love letter with good food, good friends and gratitude, the queen of talk's signature emotion.

"Every day we would say, 'did you see Oprah, what happened on Oprah.' For us to not have that conversation anymore is really sad," said Krista Collazo.

Sandy Mason attended six tapings and was even a guest once.

"It means a lot to me. She has been an inspiration, and I am going to miss her," said Mason.

The playfulness on display throughout Jack's Bar and Grill on Chicago's North Side perhaps masked the realization that Wednesday really was the end for that kind of encounter. Jean Davis and her friend took the Red Line to be there and commiserate.

"I hate to see her go. This is my little farewell to her," said Davis.

For Kathy Luetkemeyer, checking in on Oprah was a way to steel herself for the day.

"You wanted to stay home and watch Oprah before you made that first sales call, or watching it with your girlfriends. She has meant so much to so many people," said Luetkemeyer.

"It is fun to be here with my friends drinking on a rainy day at the end of May, but it is sad," said Cindy Malin.

The crowd seemed to quiet as fans pondered Oprah's singular message one last time.

"What I know is God is love and God is life, and your life is always listening to him, first in whispers," said Oprah.

"Being true to yourself and doing what you love, and it helps you fulfill your destiny in life," said Colloza, summing up what she took away from Oprah.

In south suburban Flossmoo, several friends who gathered to watch the show were inspired by the TV icon's parting words.

"You are responsible for your life, and when you get that, everything changes," Oprah on her final show.

"I'm just so proud of her. We're so happy in her achievements and her accomplishments," said Zelia Cato-Lewis, who hosted the party.

Carolyn Hooker organized the get-together after seeing the last show's taping in person Tuesday.

"I was just so caught up in the moment that you don't realize. You just can't take it all in," Hooker told ABC7.

Like many Oprah viewers, the south suburban women watched the show over the years and found support and inspiration on issues close to them.

Charlotte Miles watched as she went through her divorce and struggled as a realtor in the housing crisis.

"Whatever I went through in the past, those actions can now be turned into beauty, but it's going to take me to do it," said Miles.

Rita Starkey watched with her late husband who was disabled and home bound. She found comfort from the show when he passed. More recently, she connected with shows on child sex abuse, something she had not addressed in her life for many years.

"We just didn't talk about this kind of stuff and so Oprah opened it up...there was so many things that she did that just touched my heart," said Starkey.

The women said Oprah has been a good friend. The last show inspired them for their next chapters as Ms. Winfrey moved on to hers.

"You can put yourself in her position and say, 'look what Oprah did. She did it. We can do it, too,'" said Cimena Cummings.

"Just looking at what she does inspire me. I really want to go out, yeah, I want to do something. I want to help," said Darlene Washington.

Many of the women have taped the shows and plan to pull out old shows when they need a little inspiration or a good laugh.

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