Compiled by MCJ Staff
Family, community and political leaders paid homage to acclaimed WNOV 860 AM talk show host and political commentator Eric Von, who passed away last week Thursday evening at his home of an apparent heart attack. He was 58.
“Eric was a wonderful friend and mentor to many,” read a statement released by his family. “As a trusted advisor and leader, he held a remarkable talent for bringing people together. His sharp wit, intellect and political astuteness was unmatched.”
Though his listeners and the community knew Von as a talk show host and keen political observer, “we knew him as husband, father, brother, and friend—a man with a heart of gold,” the family statement continued.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Eric, but take great comfort in and extend our heartfelt appreciation to the many from the greater Milwaukee area and nation for the outpouring of love, remembrances and support offered to our family.”
He was the host of “The Eric Von Show” on WNOV since April 2015, where faithful listeners heard Von’s engaging conversations daily from 7 to 9 a.m. His joining WNOV came approximately three years after the demise of 1290 WMCS AM.
“I can easily hear Eric’s smooth voice in my head,” recalled Common council President Ashanti Hamilton upon hearing the news of Von’s death.
“His voice was one of Milwaukee’s most recognizable, reporting on news and politics, telling stories, and speaking to us as if he was just across the dining room table.”
Hamilton said community affairs always mattered to Von, who used his radio show to keep the community informed of its progress and meetings, and so much more.
The Council president noted, among other endeavors Von was involved in, the “Precious Lives” project which, according to WUWM in its online story on Von’s passing, was a multi-media exploration of gun violence and the toll it takes on Milwaukee’s young people. He was also lead producer for “Precious Lives: Before The Gunshots,” part of a national initiative produced by AIR.
Von was one of the most sought after opinion leaders, sharing his insights as a panelist and moderator on political and socio-economic issues.
The late broadcaster was a regular panelist on Wisconsin Public Television’s “Interchange,” a groundbreaking public affairs program. He also co-hosted “Black Nouveau” which airs on the same network.
Von was a veteran of more than 25 years in the radio industry, starting his career as a disc jockey.
From 1998 through 2000, Von was a special assignment reporter and a co-host of “It’s Your Vote,” a weekly political affairs show which featured candidate forums, debates and voter education information on Milwaukee’s ABC network affiliate, WISN Channel 12.
In 2003, as campaign co-director, Von used his political acumen to help lead Tom Barrett’s successful bid for Mayor.
Saying he was “heartbroken” to learn of Von’s passing, Barrett called Von, “a giant in this community,” who was known as “someone who could move a conversation and action among government officials.
“Eric would speak his mind very clearly, very forcefully, but still in a very professional way,” Barrett said in a press statement. “He was a thought leader and was totally engaged in trying to make this a better city for everybody.”
Though Von would, at times, hold Barrett’s feet to the fire on pertinent issues in the city and community, the mayor said Von was always fair, realizing that despite their long friendship, Von’s first priority was always what was right for the city.
“I think when people ask about Eric Von, the words you will hear are ‘fair and professional.’ He was a brilliant man and had knowledge in a lot of different areas. He was just a class act.”
Calling Von’s show “a facet of the Milwaukee Black talk radio scene,” State Sen. Lena Taylor said in a statement though Von’s microphone is silent, “the legacy of his commitment to this community and his family and friends is not gone. Our community has suffered a tremendous loss.”
Thomas Mitchell, Jr., editor of the Milwaukee Community Journal, who for a short time would review the paper’s front page for the week with Von when he was at 1290 WMCS, said: “Eric Von was a griot, a friend, and a mentor to myself and my wife Clarene, and other Black journalists working in Milwaukee media.
“His voice, knowledge and ability to communicate simply and eloquently the issues of the day in Milwaukee’s Black community will be missed, but never forgotten.”
Von served as managing partner, with his wife Faithe Colas, of the public relations firm, Von Communications and was the founder and publisher of Brain, Brawn, & Body, a health and wellness website committed to improving the health of African American men and their families.
Von’s most recent endeavor was his “Essential Voices Series: One-on-one conversations with people you should know,” a monthly forum in which Von talked to city and community movers and shakers at the City.Net Café, 306 E. Wisconsin Ave.
Paula Penebaker, president of the YWCA Southeast Wisconsin was scheduled to be the next guest Von was to interview in the series on Sept. 28.
In lieu of flowers, Von’s family is asking individuals to make a donation to the Wisconsin Black Media Association, P.O. Box 33, Milwaukee, WI 53201.
Remembering Eric Von: Remarks from community leaders and organizations on Von’s passing
“It is with great surprise and sadness that I learned of the sudden passing of Eric Von. My prayers of condolences go to his family and friends.
“I can easily hear Eric’s smooth voice in my head. His voice was one of Milwaukee’s most recognizable, reporting on news and politics, telling stories, and speaking to us as if he was just across the dining room table.
“His work in our city was important, including – for many years – broadcasting and covering the Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, and recently with the Precious Lives project, a radio series about gun violence and young people in Milwaukee.
“Eric helped to found the FEAT (Flood Emergency Assistance Team), which also included Danna Rhinehart, Annette Polly Williams, and Wallace White. He was instrumental in assisting when we had the devastating flooding in the 1st District in 2010.
“Community affairs always mattered to Eric, and he used his radio show to keep the community informed of our progress and meetings, and so much more.
“I will miss that steady and smooth voice; but even more so, I will miss Eric.”
–Milwaukee Common Council President Ald. Ashanti Hamilton
“To Brother Eric Von: We’ll meet you on the other side, along with Polly (Williams) and Keith (Murphy)…”
–MCJ Associate Publisher Mikel Holt
“Eric’s mic is silent but the legacy of his commitment to this community and his family and friends is not gone. Our community has suffered a tremendous loss.
“May God bless his soul!”—State Sen. Lena Taylor
“I’m shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of opinion leader and acclaimed Milwaukee broadcast journalist Eric Von. Our community will sorely miss his unique style and thought provoking commentary.”
—U.S. Congresswoman Gwen Moore
“Eric arguably may have been the most trusted voice in the Black community.”
—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist James Causey in his recent column about Eric Von and his passing, published Sept. 9
“I am heartbroken to learn of Eric Von’s passing.
“Eric was a giant in this community. He was very well-known particularly in the African American community, and was known as someone who could move a conversation and action among government officials.
“Eric would speak his mind very clearly, very forcefully, but still in a very professional way. He was a thought leader and was totally engaged in trying to make this a better city for everybody.
“I consider Eric a close friend. I was actually looking forward to growing old with him and spending time with him when we both didn’t have the pressures of our jobs.
“We were friends long before 2004. Over the years, we’ve been in touch socially and with our families.
“I can remember one of my favorite moments was back in 2000 when I attended the United States Supreme Court’s oral argument in the Gore vs. Bush presidential campaign case. I remember leaving the court room after oral arguments and calling Eric on a pay phone so I could be on his radio show to talk about that experience.
“I’ve appeared on Eric’s show dozens and dozens of times. There were times he would hold my feet to the fire and even though we were friends, his first priority was always what was right for the city.
“I always felt he was fair. I think when people ask about Eric Von, the words you will hear are fair and professional. He was a brilliant man and had knowledge in a lot of different areas. He was just a class act.
“I will forever be grateful for Eric’s friendship, his guidance and his commitment to making Milwaukee a better city and challenging all of us to do the same. My condolences to his wife Faithe, his daughters, grandchildren and his many loyal listeners.”
–Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett
“I am saddened by the sudden passing of Eric Von, the longtime radio host who for many years reported on and talked about issues of importance to all Milwaukeeans.
“I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Mr. Von, and over the years I came to know him and his family. He was a class act and someone who cared deeply about Milwaukee. He will be missed. My prayers and sincere condolences go to his family at this very difficult time.”–Ald. Michael Murphy
“One has to ask how many more powerful voices will we lose before it becomes too hard to fix things.”
—Former 1290 WMCS AM talk show host Earl Ingram to James Causey in his Sept. 9 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“I was shocked to learn last night of the passing of Milwaukee radio icon, Eric Von. At a time when our city is still suffering, losing Eric’s voice of reason on the radio and his clear-eyed leadership on critical issues like gun violence is a tragedy. Eric always chose to shed more light than heat on the topics he covered, and his journalistic integrity and steady presence in an increasingly chaotic and divisive media environment will be sorely missed.”
“My heart also goes out to Eric’s family. He and his wife, Faithe Colas, epitomize the dedication, compassion, and selflessness that tie a community together.
“Our young people have lost a truly great role model, and I can only hope that others will step forward to continue Eric’s work of informing, educating, and speaking up for a community that remains in desperate need of more champions like him.”
–State Representative LaTonya Johnson
“Eric has left an undeniable footprint in Milwaukee. His voice will truly be missed on Milwaukee radio and his presence from the numerous community endeavors he created.” —Excerpt of a statement from the Black Public Relations Society-Milwaukee chapter
“All I need is one friend
To get me through the day
One friend that never goes away
Only one friend that understands
And never lets me down.
Never let’s me down.”
“Eric Von is that kind of friend. RIH dear brother. You have left us your eternal presence. We will never forget the impact you have on our lives. Our “Precious Lives.”
–Andre’ Lee Ellis