Published on Friday, 07 May 2010 13:43
At the end of last year, this site passed along the very sad news of the death of former Chicago radio voice Bob Dayton. He had passed away on December 12, 2009, another victim to cancer.
Bob Dayton enjoyed an long radio career. Here in Chicago, Dayton worked in varying capacities at WJJD, WMAQ, WSCR and WGN, as well as at the Chicago-based companies, Syndication Networks and FoxRock Communications. He also worked in other markets including Minneapolis, Memphis, Denver, and Baltimore.
Bob Dayton's real name was Bill Harper, but was mostly known on-air as Bob Dayton. Off the air, he was Bill, or Bubba, or sometimes even Papa Smurf.
His out of state funeral has long since passed, but a Chicago memorial is being planned for later this month. Here are the details for that:
MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR BUBBA
Saturday, May 22
Memorial Service 1:00pm-2:00pm, Reception 2:00pm-4:00pm
Church of our Savior
530 West Fullerton Parkway
Chicago, IL 60614-5919
If you plan on attending, please take a moment to email his son Bill Harper at
. The family would appreciate having an approximate headcount for food and beverage needs.
Bob Dayton's wife, Paula Harper, wrote the following piece on Chicago's "Bubba," which is a loving look at the man and his life. Here it is:
RE: Bill/Bob/Honey/Dad/Daddy-Bill/Bubba/Pappa Smurf/G-Pa Harper:
Bill was the first child of a second marriage. His mom went into labor at midnight mass Christmas Day 1943, on a navy base in Norman OK, where he was born. Olivia DeHaviland was on base, so his first photo-op was with her for the Navy's Gazette Newspaper. He loved being a Christmas baby, and insisted he was never cheated because his family saved a BD gift to share after all the Christmas hoopla was over. Early on Bill's generosity and team spirit were evident.
His family loved music, and before he could read Bill was telling his older sister's suitors the titles of records they were about to play on the 33 rpm phonograph. His silliness and irreverence was exhibited when he got a cat and named it Shastakovich, "Because he's a longhair."
In grade school Bill developed a love for all things mechanical and electrical. Elaborate train systems wound through the family's basement evidencing a lifelong fascination with things that roar; "BeBe cars" and motorcycles followed years later. He hoped his grandchildren would develop similar interests and saved a steamer trunk full of collectibles on their behalf. Fortunately we eventually convinced him bowling balls are individual, not something to be inherited!
By junior high Bill had become known to his family as "The Hermit On The Third Floor," famous for taking stacks of peanut butter/jelly sandwiches into his lair to fuel his focus on a new hobby; building and launching a radio station. Imagine his parents' surprise when The FCC came by unannounced, to "speak with Mr. Harper," demanding his diode since he had been broadcasting illegally without a license to a small but select St. Louis audience, mostly other ‘radio geeks’ who couldn't get enough of the magic. During high school he volunteered at local stations, filing records and learning the trade. After high school he and a friend lined up jobs as DJ's; in once instance, sharing the entire broadcast day between them. Years later while studying at Brown Institute in Minneapolis, Bill was surprised the day he took his First Class Radio Telephone License Engineering Exam when a Federal Agent stepped off the elevator calling out his name and former address. It was the man who'd taken his diode. The agent had a photographic memory and was happy to see Bill had made an honest man of himself. Bill was happy to get his license and be fully compliant with the feds.
Having a son meant an opportunity to share the wonders of Bill's world: Old Time Radio Shows, sound effects, and spooky movies wove their way through our home. An especially intense segment called The Tingler, kept Billy awake and fearful and it was Dad who reassured him all through the night. Holiday pictures show them exploring not only what to do with toys, but learning what made them work. Bill engendered a wonderful characteristic called curiosity.
He also embraced change. As his career developed we moved often, from Missouri to Minnesota, Colorado, Illinois, Tennessee, and back to Chicago where, finally, the market could hold his talent. And at every stop along the way he developed treasured relationships.
In 1976, Evanston claimed our family's collective heart. We renovated a house, made memories and reveled in the neighborhood our family still refers to as home. Bill proudly watched his son head off to grade school with kids, lots of kids, from our street. We enjoyed that community and neighborhood as they should be; safe, secure and a joy to all. During that time Bill learned to sail on Lake Michigan and we often spent summer evenings at the Lighthouse Beach.
A few years later in Memphis, TN the family proved to be recalcitrant Mid-Westerners. Admitting ourselves to be Southern Vibe Misfits, Bill/Bob, by then having picked up the moniker Bubba, brought his family back home to once again celebrate Evanston, just in time for Billy-The-Kid to attend ETHS. After graduation as B-III set out to see the world and learn where he fit in professionally. Daddy Bill waved goodbye, quietly proud of his son's independence and interest in exploring new places.
From 1987-1998 Bill/Bob/Bubba celebrated his happiest and most accomplished decade as a broadcaster. He found his personal niche, truly making Chicago his home. While he was well known and respected in the broadcast community as the "go to guy who could get it done and get along with everybody," he prided himself more on professionalism than the recognition he received for it.
In 1991, after living in the City 4 years, (by his own admission a danger point), Bubba stated he "Had to have some grass" ...not that kind of grass... and selected a little blue cottage in Koontz Lake, IN as a getaway. For the next 10 years, Ma and Pa Kettle had a great time weekending in the country, learning from the locals how to do interesting things like sinking dock pilings, releasing a pontoon boat from frozen waters, finding the tastiest corn and blueberries, and down which country road to sight Bambi on a stealth motorcycle ride. The City Boy loved it. Dubbed Golden Pond, it was a wonderful place to share with family and friends, and despite his inability to sit at length talking (to their shock and amazement he once began defrosting the refrigerator in the middle of a conversation with friends), many bonding experiences occurred. His report of accidentally impaling a mole was hilarious.
In 1999, health issues forced Bill/Bob/Bubba's first retirement but he couldn't give up production and engineering. Post-"retirement" was filled with new aspects of the medium, he engineered an on-line finance program, and after its launch, continued production duties with a number of Chicago stations on a part-time basis.
In 2007, despite continuing declining health, Bill wanted to be part of the action when his first grandchild was born and was glad to be there when Finnegan Beck Harper made his debut October 26. For the next two years he spent two days a week with Finn. They read stories, sang silly songs, danced and played, built forts, blew bubbles, developed skills, sought new adventures and documented their time together. With Finn Bill re-experienced the pure joy of (grand)parenting. When BeBe Estelle was born in September 09, 2009, he cradled the newest member of the family (the first girl in over 60 years) and beamed. Last November, at the grandchildren's baptism, the last time the extended family was together, was one of his happiest days.
His final act was on behalf of others. Bill had been diagnosed with Lymphoma in 2009 and was undergoing treatment. Despite that, he wanted to bring his mother-in-law, who could no longer live independently, to our home in Arizona. His Johns' Hopkins physicians felt the trip was manageable, and set him up with a UMC oncologist in Tucson, Az. Unfortunately something went terribly wrong after the last treatment and three days after arriving in AZ he was hospitalized with lung failure. He died December 12, 2009, less than a week after arriving and ending the dream he'd had of being able to "hang out with my family and spend the next six months recuperating." Bubba wouldn't be bitter; he'd be happy he'd accomplished the goal of "getting his girls to paradise," aka Tubac, AZ. His generous spirit never faltered.
Bill described himself as a gentle dreamer. Simple things were most important to him, family, home, friends, and especially taking time to recognize everyone as a valuable human being. He adored radio, engineering, all kinds of music, politics, finance, Italian and Mexican foods; Stargazer Lilies and Coleus plants. He was an introvert who cherished his downtime and being at peace with the world.
This is the man we will miss. This is the Best of Bubba. May he Rest in Peace.