Published on Saturday, 06 March 2010 10:51
For 10 years, the heart & soul of WXRT was not one of their talented radio personalities, not one of their highly regarded managers or executives, and not any "big name" star. The heart & soul of WXRT was LaShon Bilbro.
This past week, LaShon Bilbro passed away. She was feeling ill and had difficulty breathing, so her doctor advised her to go to a hospital. She was not admitted into the Emergency Room or Intensive Care, but placed in a regular hospital bed with less supervision. The illness she was dealing with somehow won the fight with this strong lady. LaShon was only 40 years old. The loss of this shining light has sent shockwaves throughout WXRT & WSCR employees past & present.
LaShon Bilbro was the very first face anybody would see upon entering WXRT (and for a few years WSCR) when it was located at 4949 W. Belmont Avenue. Most times, she was the voice you would hear on the other end of the phone when calling into the station. She was the smiling face people would be greeted by at the booth at many WXRT live events. She was the oil that made the gears of the radio station run. To call her a "receptionist" would be a disservice to her, since she was so much more to those offices and to the other people who worked there.
All week long, a great many people have been telling stories about the many happy times their shared with & because of LaShon. On a Facebook page set up for WXRT employees past & present, numerous stories have been posted. They talk about LaShon's love for the "Drops of Jupiter" song by Train, how she would put on a Hazmat suit to open up the station's mail after the 9/11 & anthrax scare in 2001 and then wear it all day for laughs, how she would have no problem telling management how to run a radio station, how she could eat foods with hot sauce at 7:00am, how when one XRT staffer went on the air on WSCR and said he didn't like women with tattoos... he was greeted the next day by a sleeveless LaShon (so he could clearly see the tattoo on her arm) who had no problem hitting him, how she was a ray of sunshine on cloudy days, how she would happily talk with spouses for 10 minutes before transferring the call to the employee, and so on. One person told me that LaShon often made hiring decision for the stations (unofficially). Since she was such a great judge of character and would get an instant feel for the person waiting in the lobby, her "expert" opinion would be consulted. More than anything, what gets mentioned the most is her infectious smile. Her big grin and hearty laugh made the work environment an enjoyable place for all.
She was smart, sassy, fun, funny, strong but sweet, opinionated, devoted, a hard worker (until it was time for her cigarette break), thought most people were crazy, but also loved most people. No matter what disagreements may have happened between the office walls, one thing everybody there could agree upon was their adoration for LaShon. As devoted and loving as she was at work, she was even more so to her children. Nothing made her smile more or beam brighter than talking about her kids.
When CBS Radio moved WXRT from their longtime Belmont Avenue home to CityFront Plaza in downtown Chicago in 2008, there was no longer a position for LaShon. Nobody was happy about it, but nothing could be done about it, as budgets were being cut and it was too far for her to travel. She remained close to many WXRT & WSCR staffers.
She was especially close to one past WSCR employee: former Score Producer Eric Beverly. The two had a long relationship together and were eventually married. The two shared a daughter and were only a month away from having another baby. When LaShon Bilbro-Beverly passed away a few days ago, she also lost the baby, making this incredibly sad story even sadder. I cannot even imagine the hardship that Eric must be going through with this. In addition to Eric and their daughter, LaShon also leaves behind 5 other daughters from previous relationships. She had six daughters raging in age from 7 years old to 23 years old. The baby that passed away with her would had been her first son.
LaShon also leaves behind her best friend in the world, Tara McClain. Tara has been like a second mother to her children and is doing all she can to care for them right now during this horrific time.
Services are now set for Monday. The details are as follows...
Funeral Service: 11:00am-Noon*
Location: Salem Baptist Church
11800 S. Indiana (corner of 118th and Indiana)
(*Since many of LaShon's previous co-workers and friends would like to speak at the service, it may run longer than the scheduled one hour time.)
A fund is being set up for LaShon's children. The details of which should be finalized in the next couple of days. I will update this blog with the details as soon as I have them.
UPDATE: To see the details of the fund set up for LaShon's children, please click HERE.
LaShon Bilbro-Beverly touched the lives of so many people. If you are a Chicago media person who has ever worked with her or were blessed enough to just spend some time with LaShon, you have my sympathies on your loss. Whether or not you ever met LaShon before, please keep her family & friends in your thoughts.
And now, as a salute to LaShon, here is her favorite song from her days working at 4949 Belmont Avenue: "Drops of Jupiter" by Train. Somewhere out there, she is happily singing along...
On a personal note, I would like to thank the many, many people who contacted me to give me information and so many loving stories & memories about LaShon Bilbro. I especially would like to thank Ellen Miller for her special efforts. LaShon was very loved by so many. She will be just as missed.
(Photos by Mark Nielsen)