It’s with a heavy heart that we inform listeners of the passing of Leslie Witt.
Leslie began working at XRT in 1977 and had been a beloved voice of many ever since her first air shift. A wife, mother, sister, aunt, and dear friend, Leslie’s warm heart brought a smile to all those who crossed paths with her.
Lin Brehmer, Frank E. Lee, Jason Thomas, Emma Mac, and more remember Leslie
Emma Mac – “Leslie Witt was a remarkable DJ and a remarkable human being. Her light and energy was an inspiration. When I was the new kid starting out at XRT she could not have possibly been more welcoming, inviting and supportive. It was a regular and much welcomed occurrence to receive an email from Leslie, commenting on something she liked on-air or on the website, going out of her way to show support and encouragement. Her positivity was astounding. I hope she knows how much I have and will always appreciate the kindness she showed me. But being kind seemed to be no cost to her at all, it was who she was. Leslie’s passion for music was plain as day. It was always fun running into her at show because she was in her element, which was apparent from the contagious smile on her face. Leslie is an integral part of XRT’s history, and she will be incredibly missed by her friends at the station. Thank you, Leslie, for setting such a high on-air standard, and giving me the encouragement to aim for it.”
Richard Milne – “I am not sure many people are aware that there have been just a couple of dozen people that have had the privilege of turning on a microphone and saying the letters “WXRT” over the last 44 years. It’s a very small and select group of people. Very few have just come and gone although a few have come and gone but came back again. Heck, half of the people who ever worked here, still do. Well, we lost one of “us” yesterday and even tho perhaps none of Leslie Witt’s WXRT family should have been totally surprised by the news, it still felt like a literal kick in the gut to get word early yesterday afternoon. For most of Leslie’s almost 40-year career as a WXRT DJ, our relationship consisted of me passing over the mic as I exited the overnight shift and she came bouncing in for the early morning weekend shift. The last couple of years, however, we really grew close over lengthy talks on the phone and lengthy walks on the 606. And, there was the occasional bite to eat and any opportunities we had to hang at various station events. Leslie was special not only as one of “us” WXRT DJs but as a person and a friend and as a fellow traveler on this walk of life. Our hearts grieve for you, Leslie, and on behalf of your family, too. It was a lovely and special privilege to know you.”
Frank E. Lee – “If you woke up early on the weekend for the past 40 years or so and tuned in to WXRT along with you morning coffee, newspaper and plans for recreation and projects, you probably were listening to one of Chicago’s loveliest voices. Well-modulated and soothing, but always real and never condescending. Her taste in music was impeccable and she put songs together in a way that showed you where they came from and where they added something new with presentation that made you fall in love with your favorite tunes all over again and kindled a romance with the new ones. Illness kept her off the air recently, but she continued to cooperate with her medical team, maintain a positive attitude and took in the occasional concert as often as she could. The last time I saw her, she was rocking out at Tom Petty and Mudcrutch at the Riviera, and even wrote an excellent review of the show on our website. If the radio plays out of tune today, it’s because Leslie Witt is gone. ”
Lara Mondae – “Though heaven may be really awesome we didn’t really want to give up our earth angel. The first couple years as a dj at Wxrt our Sunday am shifts crossed over. Leslie would show up before the switch time (4am), thermos in hand, excited and wanting to know what music was new! As many of you know, the minute she turned on that mic the sun came up. She was so kind, so thoughtful. She brought the sunshine with her in her enthusiasm, her soothing radio voice, and she’d look up and smile that smile that made it obvious how much she loved being a radio DJ and we’d wave goodbye. Two weeks ago I was leaving the station after the Sat. overnight shift. When I left the building I saw her standing there, I said “Leslie what are you doing here so early?” She’d been off air for some time while throwing up a fist at cancer. She grabbed my hand and said “come sit with me for a minute, though I’m sure “you’re” exhausted” (always thinking of others). The first thing out of her mouth was “I’m here to get music” she lit up “there’s some new music I must have”. I could see it was going to take all of her energy to get up to the station. We talked about everything we could fit into those ten minutes. I feel blessed to know her and to have that happenstance of time with her… she was saying goodbye. But In the words of Richard Milne, “Doesn’t matter if you see it coming, it is still a shock”. I spent the remainder of Sunday listening and appreciating music.. For Leslie. Our XRT family will miss her so much.”
Tom Marker – “Yesterday was a very sad day. July 17, 2016 was the day we lost dear friend Leslie Witt. I first met Leslie sometime in the late 70’s when she was a cool (and cute) DJ for WIBA in Madison, WI. I always looked up to her as a very smart and professional radio person. Over the years Leslie and her husband became close friends of my wife and mine. I’m a little late writing this and the tributes from other people from WXRT have been extraordinary and right on. Lin mentioned, “She was one of the rare people who saw the best in people even if they didn’t really deserve it.” Have you ever met someone who never had a negative thing to say about anyone, who never complained about their job to other co-workers who did? I have, Leslie Witt. Richard Milne said, “The last couple of years, however, we really grew close over lengthy talks on the phone and lengthy walks on the 606.” Yes, me, too. Over the last couple of years she and I also talked at length, talked about her cancer. It was easy to talk to Leslie about this sometimes difficult subject because she was so open and honest. And always so positive. (And as recently as last fall the prognosis looked promising.) Matt Spiegel handled the overnight shift on Friday nights for awhile at ‘XRT therefore seeing Leslie at the end of his shift and the beginning of hers. He recalled that, “She sent me off into the early morning drive home with a smile, and usually a hug. Meant way more to me than she ever knew.” This sentiment was echoed by everyone at the station who would see her during shift changes, including your truly as I used to follow Leslie during those years when I hosted Saturday Morning Flashback and see her as I was coming in. It was always great to start a show by seeing Leslie’s smiling face. When Emma Mac began to DJ at WXRT she had some big shoes to fill and it’s sometimes difficult to find a level of confidence at a time like that. Here’s what she had to say about Leslie: “When I was the new kid starting out at XRT she could not have possibly been more welcoming, inviting and supportive. It was a regular and much welcomed occurrence to receive an email from Leslie, commenting on something she liked on-air or on the website, going out of her way to show support and encouragement. Her positivity was astounding.” This is why her wonderful (adult) children have been so lucky in life. Leslie Witt was their mother. Leslie even managed to have a smile and a positive outlook on life last month when she told us she was transitioning from living with cancer to dying from it.
Kay, Kurt and Chuck, our hearts ache for your loss. Rest in peace, Leslie.”