Community dear to longtime WDAN radio personality
DANVILLE – Though missing from the airwaves since a stroke about a year ago, Jeanne Eisenhauer will be remembered not only by her WDAN radio audience, but for how she worked and served in Danville.
Beverly Jeanne Eisenhauer, 73, of Danville died Tuesday (June 24, 2008) at Colonial Manor Nursing Home.
"She worked up until a week before she had surgery a year ago," said Mike Hulvey, vice president of Neuhoff Communications. "We were holding her chair open."
Mrs. Eisenhauer was a fixture on the airwaves at WDAN, and the mother of Mayor Scott Eisenhauer – who at one time was her radio sidekick on "Partyline."
"I learned to interview and be interviewed from my mom," Scott Eisenhauer said.
"Doing that show with her was easily the most fun I've ever had," Scott said. "We loved to argue. To be able to do that on the radio and bring the callers in was just a lot of fun. To Mom, that was what radio was about. Not just her and I, but us and listeners and callers interacting."
Comfortable in the studio or on the road, Mrs. Eisenhauer took the show to the Stork Room at St. Elizabeth Hospital when her then on-air partner was Hulvey and his daughter Marissa had just been born.
When avid listener Charlotte (the one Danville's Charlotte's restaurant is named for) called in to join the fray about Scott loving snow while his mother hated it, Charlotte asked, if Scott loved snow so much, why didn't he just come over and shovel her sidewalk.
"Mom saw that as a perfect opportunity. We'd just do that. So when the next snow came, we loaded up the equipment and she did the show from Charlotte's living room while I shoveled snow."
Mrs. Eisenhauer took her show on the road to garage and yard sales as well.
"We'd visit three or four sales in the same area," said Pat Swanson, senior account executive at Neuhoff Broadcasting who was recruited to the station by Mrs. Eisenhauer 25 years ago.
"Jeanne would always buy something from the places we'd visit," Swanson said. "One day, though, the lady just wouldn't sell Jeanne what she wanted, even though it was in the sale. She just couldn't believe that."
One of her favorite gigs was broadcasting live from the Oldsmobile Balloon Classic. She wore her colorful hot air balloon jacket and collected pins representing the various balloons.
She was also involved in many community fundraising events over the years and served an eight-year term on the Danville school board.
"Jeanne was a great lady, very energetic," said Vermilion County Circuit Judge Craig DeArmond, who served on the school board with her. "She was always prepared. She was the kind that wouldn't just go along."
DeArmond said Mrs. Eisenhauer was supportive of the teachers, more sympathetic to their issues and would bring them to the board.
"She was never afraid to speak her opinion or buck the superintendent," he said. "She had a common sense perspective and wasn't afraid to share it."
"It was my personal honor to swear in her son Scott when he became mayor. The look of pride on her face was something to see," DeArmond said.
Mrs. Eisenhauer was active in community theater, whether it was taking leading roles or serving as assistant to the founder of the Red Mask Players, Kathryn Randolph.
"The thing about Jeanne was how much her listeners meant to her and how much she meant to her listeners," Hulvey said. "If she didn't hear from one of her regular callers in a while, she'd track them down and make sure they were all right."
An institution is how Jim Sheppard described Mrs. Eisenhauer, who is included in his book about being the voice of Illini basketball and football. They worked together at the radio station in the early years.
"We once took 30 minutes to do a 30-second commercial," Sheppard said. "It was for Giacomo's Deli and something struck us funny. If one of us didn't laugh, the other did."
She became great friends with Donald O'Connor, worked with Gene Hackman when there was a television station in the WDAN building and even dated Jerry Van Dyke until her mother ran him off the porch.
Her laugh was infectious. Her humor, legendary.
"The Jeanne you heard on the air was the same Jeanne you had a conversation with in her living room," Hulvey said. "She will be missed."