Sweet and straight-talking Mama Zeke might not have been on the morning show marquee at Q104 FM, but she became a much loved radio personality just the same.
News of her death at age 83 prompted an outpouring from fans Thursday.
She was Geraldine Zeikle in real life and the real-life mother of one of the show’s hosts, Zeke Montana. Listeners to the country music station, along with co-hosts Mike Kennedy and Christa Patrick, will miss her family stories, her sometimes blunt advice to callers and her songs.
Montana said his mother broke her pelvic bone in November and her health waned after that. She died Wednesday. The station posted an item about her death on its Facebook page.
“I truly cried when I heard this on the radio this morning,” one listener posted on the page. “Like others said, never knew her, but ‘knew her’ through the morning show. Loved when she called in and that special birthday song melts my heart.”
That “birthday” song many recalled was “A Bushel and a Peck.” Think 1950 and Doris Day: “I love you a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck”
Montana, who grew up in Independence where his mother still lived, joined the morning show in 2002. It was the next year when his mother was first on the radio for the station’s Mother’s Day show. She’s been an occasional featured personality ever since.
Mama Zeke exuded a cool mix of gentleness and no nonsense, and the show started a bit called “Ask Mama Zeke,” patterned after Jay Leno’s Fruitcake Lady, Montana said.
To a caller who asked what would be a good name for a new pet goldfish, she was blunt: “What the hell do I care what you name your fish?” Her relationship counsel to female callers ranged from urging sexual restraint to “make a nice dinner and get some of that K-Y Jelly.”
“She gave this crazy advice, so funny, that people connected with her and wished that she was their mom or grandmother,” Montana said. “And she never had a bad word to say about anybody.”
Kennedy said Mama Zeke had a way of telling family stories that always made him laugh, like the one about putting her misbehaving son inside a big cardboard box for punishment, then cutting a hole in it so he could watch TV. Montana confirmed it was true.
“She had this distinctive, sweet voice,” Kennedy said. “She had this warmth and humor, and it was all honest.”
She was an avid Kansas City Chiefs fan, a season ticket holder since 1972, and until last fall worked full time at the family business, Zeke’s Paint & Design Center, doing billing and payroll.
“She was just an amazing lady,” Kennedy said, “probably all of 90 pounds, and 85 of that was heart.”