It is with deepest sorrow I report the passing of Norm Pellegrini, WFMT's program director for most of its existence and the true founder of The Midnight Special. While Mike Nichols is given credit for creating the program, it was Norm who truly crafted and molded the program into the sound and form it bears today. Although I was Ray's understudy, it was Norm who invited me to host The Midnight Special. In the history of Chicago radio and folk music on the radio, no one had the wit, intelligence, and class of Norm Pellegrini, not to mention his incredible talent in all facets of radio.
My apologies if I have confused anyone with the date of Norm's death on the July 4 Midnight Special
. The first information I received of his passing referring to his dying on Wednesday night, which fixed in my mind, so I referred to his death as July 1. He died in the early morning of July 2, so my reference to his passing on July 1 on The Midnight Special
is technically incorrect.
Official WFMT obituary:
July 18, 1929-July 2, 2009
It is with profound sorrow that we announce the death of our colleague and friend, Norman Pellegrini. The longtime WFMT program director died early this morning. Norman was 79 years old.
A native of Chicago, Norman attended the University of Chicago and received a degree from Columbia College. He first joined WFMT founders Bernie and Rita Jacobs at radio station WOAK and continued to work with them after they launched WFMT in 1951. Norman became WFMT's program director in 1953, a post he held until 1996.
"No one in WFMT's 58 year history had more influence on WFMT's sound, style and programming than Norm Pellegrini and he shaped that sound every day for the nearly 45 years he worked as our program director," said Steve Robinson, WFMT's general manager. "Over the decades, many have admired and praised the station's programming for its diversity, richness, breadth and integrity. All of those elements, and so much more, are Norm's legacy and we honor him today and every day by our devotion to maintaining the standards he set so high. He will be missed."
Pellegrini hosted WFMT's first live Lyric Opera broadcast, a performance of Rossini's Semiramide, in 1971, and continued to present Lyric broadcasts through 2008-2009 season. Norman also hosted broadcasts by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, beginning in 1976 and continuing into the 1990s. Listeners will also remember Norman as host of WFMT's Midnight Special for many years.
"Norm Pellegrini's love of music, and his standards of quality, established the character of WFMT radio from its beginnings in the early 1950s. His passion for good music is still with us today," offers Andi Lamoreaux, WFMT's music director and a longtime friend and colleague. "Norm loved his native city, and most especially its musicians, always striving to find new outlets to showcase the excellence and variety of Chicago's musical life. His energy, enthusiasm, and dedication made him a colleague both demanding and inspiring. He will be missed, but his legacy will live at WFMT so long as the station is on the air."
A memorial service for Norman is being planned by his long-time partner, Donald Knight. It will be held on July 18th, on what would have been Norman's 80th birthday, at Mayfair Lutheran on Lawrence Avenue in Chicago. More details will be shared on 98.7WFMT and wfmt.com as they become available.
WFMT listeners and family members are encouraged to share their remembrances of Norman Pellegrini. Messages can be recorded by calling 773-279-2174 or posted to WFMT's online message board wfmt.com/Norman. These messages will be shared throughout the day on 98.7WFMT and at wmft.com.
July 2, 2009