Colleagues and fans are remembering Carla Leonardo for her love of music, her generous spirit and her fabulous voice.
The veteran Chicago radio personality died Saturday of acute myeloid leukemia at 63. She was on medical leave as weekend host at WDRV FM 97.1, where she worked since 2001. In earlier decades, she had been a mainstay of the former Q101 and the Loop.
In a blog post Sunday, broadcaster and author James VanOsdol remembered working for Leonardo as an intern at Q101, calling her “the best mentor I could’ve asked for.”
“Carla had a knack for cutting through bullshit with a white-hot knife,” VanOsdol wrote. “She also had an appealing cynical streak that was less mean-spirited than it was the result of being too smart for her chosen vocation. I’ll never forget, after a round of firings and jock shufflings at the station, she introduced me to the apocryphal Chinese curse: ‘May you live in interesting times.’ Every time things around me go berserk, I think about her smiling as she said those words.”
To Lisa Greene and other women on the air in Chicago, Leonardo was a role model. “Carla was a woman of substance, and was allowed to be that, on the air, when many program directors don’t hire, or don’t want a woman to sound like that, anymore,” Greene wrote on Facebook. “Many are sorry for the loss of their personal friend, colleague, or on-the-air companion. I also am sorry for all the girls and young women going into broadcasting who will now never get the gift of hearing, ‘Oh, I get it, I can, and should, sound like THAT, the way Carla Leonardo does it’ to influence them on their paths.”
Patty Martin, program director of WDRV, said in a statement: “As possibly the world’s biggest Bruce fan, Carla was one of the first to come aboard when the Drive began in 2001 and we’ve enjoyed her quick wit and her passion for and knowledge of the music we all love, which was a major force in her life. The struggle is over now and Carla is where the music is loud, the ocean is blue, kids are laughing, sun is shining, the Bears never lose, and she’s got a front row seat at that great gig in the sky.”
In addition to working on the air in her native Chicago for more than three decades, Leonardo’s career spanned stations from Seattle to Boston and from San Juan to Saint Croix.
Leonardo is survived by her mother, Catherine, four sisters and one brother. Visitation will be from 3 to 8 p.m. Friday at Hursen Funeral Home, 4001 W. Roosevelt Road, Hillside. A service for family and close friends will follow at 8 p.m.
Donations may be sent to BeTheMatch.org.