Longtime Chicago radio newsman Barry Keefe is being remembered as a consummate broadcaster whose booming voice conveyed warmth and authority to morning-drive listeners for decades.
Keefe, who stepped down in 2008 after 30 years as director of news and public affairs at WTMX FM 101.9, died Sunday at his home in west suburban Wheaton. He was 62.
He’d been fighting pancreatic cancer for about a year, according to his son, Alex Keefe, a former reporter for Chicago Public Media WBEZ FM 91.5 who now works for Vermont Public Radio.
Keefe was best known for his long run as news anchor on Eric Ferguson and Kathy Hart’s top-rated morning show on The Mix. He joined the hot adult-contemporary station in 1978 when it was still known as WCLR under previous owner Bonneville International.
“Barry was the consummate broadcaster,” Ferguson said Monday. “There’s never been a news delivery like his. I still can hear his booming bass voice in my headphones, reading headlines with authority, but putting his own personal touch on each story as he shared it. He will be greatly missed.”
By Keefe’s own count, “Eric & Kathy” was the 14th morning show he’d worked with at the station. “I just know I’m a perfect fit for a radio station,” he said in a 1999 interview. “I’m very restless and have a lot of excess energy. Being in a newsroom setting — even at an FM music station — is one of the things I’m ideally suit for.”
Born on Chicago’s North Side, Keefe grew up in Niles, Michigan, where he began his career as a weekend disc jockey at WNIL while still in high school. He continued in radio at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan, and later worked for stations in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
At WCLR (and later WTMX), he headed what at one time was a five-person news department. By the time he left, (“the curtain came down unexpectedly,” was the way he phrased it), Keefe was the news department. He also hosted numerous public-affairs programs, including the weekly “Insight.”
He went on to teach sound engineering at Illinois Institute of Art from 2010 to 2014.
Keefe is survived by his wife, Kathy, and sons Alex and Aidan. In lieu of flowers, donations to support Aidan’s education at Boston’s Berklee College of Music will be accepted by Taylor Schlichter at Charles Schwab & Co. at (847) 441-1908 or at www.ugift529.com.
Visitation will begin at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Williams-Kampp Funeral Home, 430 East Roosevelt Road in Wheaton. A brief service will be held there at 3 p.m. Saturday.