Roy Leonard, Chicago radio legend, dies at 83

Chicago radio legend Roy Leonard.

Roy Leonard, a Chicago radio legend, has died after an illness. He was 83.

Local listeners tuned in to hear Leonard for more than 30 years on WGN. He retired in 1998.

"Our Dad was beloved by Chicago and even more so by his family. His six sons, their wives and grand children were with him at the end. And like all great broadcasters, he waited until the final prayer was said to sign off for the last time," a family statement released Friday said.

The statement was released by Second City, where Kelly Leonard, Roy Leonard's son, is executive vice president.

Roy Leonard's colleagues spent the morning talking about the radio legend and said among other things, he had a knack for the interview process.

The tributes and memories are sure to pour in all day. It seems everyone that knew Roy Leonard has something nice to say.

"What a great guy, I remember... how nice he was to me when I first started, he wanted to make me feel at home," said retired WGN Radio host Spike O'Dell.

"He had kind of a cool vibe, a jazz vibe about him, an older guy meeting another guy going, 'Hey man how you doin'?' He just was the coolest guy in the room whenever you had a chance to talk to him," said WGN Radio host Steve Cochran.

The countless authors, celebrities and others he interviewed thought so, too. Leonard was warm, friendly and knowledgeable.

"I lost count of the number of people who said, 'Great being on your show, anytime I'm in town I'd like to come back,'" said Orion Samuelson, WGN Radio. "I think that's because he was the gentleman that he was and a good interviewer."

In 1985, he became the host of WGN-TV's "Family Classics." He was a film and theater critic, and he even remained active on his blog well after he retired in 1998. He left his mark on many.

"What I know of Roy, I should do more of, that's listen," Cochran said. "We kind of live in an era where we ask questions before the answers are, we jump in, he always listened to the answer, and I think it's one of the reasons the biggest stars of the 70s, 80s, early 90s - they all wanted to come through and see Roy."

Leonard lost his longtime love, his wife Sheila, in 2012. He passed away at Evanston Hospital where he had been receiving treatment for an infection.

Leonard's family says he was surrounded by his six sons, their wives, and his grandchildren Thursday night when he passed away.

"For more than 30 years Roy Leonard was a cornerstone for WGN arts and entertainment news with one of the most prolific careers of any broadcaster in Chicago," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. "While the city has lost one of its great radio legends, his impact on the lives of those he interviewed, and most importantly, his avid listeners, remains."

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