How do you thoroughly summarize a life and a career in a column space?
When it’s Jim Felton — a longtime DJ, born and raised in Toledo, who, as Jim Brady, delivered the No. 1 morning show in Toronto for years at Top 40 CFTR-AM — I’m not sure that you can.
Felton, 67 and terminally ill with cancer, enjoyed a five-decade run in radio that included stints in three of the biggest markets in North America, including Los Angeles and Dallas-Forth Worth. Locally, he’s best known for his career bookends at WCWA-AM 1230 in the 1960s, when it was still WTOL-AM, where he first broadcast, and WRQN-FM 93.5, where he signed off for good in 2008.
As a popular morning DJ, Felton interviewed hundreds of celebrities. He partied with a Monty Python and a Beatle — Eric Idle and George Harrison — on a first-class flight to London. And in 1977, he was among the lucky few to watch the Rolling Stones perform one of the band’s legendary surprise club dates at the El Mocambo in downtown Toronto.
“He’s had the career in radio that only some of us could dream of,” said longtime friend Matt Zaleski, himself a former Toledo radio jock. “When you look at where he’s been and what he’s done, it’s nothing short of amazing.”
In 2010, two years after retiring, Felton considered a return to radio, but that wasn’t to be. During a routine physical, Felton’s first in a decade or longer, he was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. After intense chemotherapy, the cancer retreated, only to return, retreat again, and come back with a final vengeance, spreading to his lower spine.
“At this point, the prognosis with surgery or without surgery is the about the same,” said Felton, sitting in a wheelchair at the desk in his home office. “The prognosis, it’s very bad.”
Rather than spend his last months in the hospital, Felton returned to his Perrysburg home and the daily care of Hospice to manage his pain. He’s in remarkable good humor, given his bleak situation. Strangely enough, he doesn’t appear gravely ill, and his deep radio voice suggests he should be back on the air.
“It’s weird,” he said. “I guess I look healthier than I feel.”
With him for the end is his newlywed, Linda. The two met in 1969 after she called Felton on the radio request line. After dating six months, they broke up and lost contact. Felton moved around, got married, had two children, and later divorced. It was Facebook that reunited the couple in 2010, shortly after Felton’s diagnosis.
They married in September and planned a big cruise in February, but Felton’s deteriorating health forced them to cancel the trip. And now they wait for the inevitable.
And how long will that be? “Who knows? That’s a coin toss,” he said. “I was told by an oncologist it could be a year, year and a half, two years. It’s really impossible to tell.”
That was a year ago.
Felton wonders if the outcome would have been different if he had seen the doctor even six months earlier.
“I probably could have saved a whole lot of trouble,” he said. “People have got to wake up and do it. I’m as guilty as the next guy of not checking it out. Get out there and get checked.”
That’s his final message to the public. Meanwhile, he’s enjoying the thoughtful wishes of friends and fans via his Facebook account, Jim Brady Felton.
“It’s just amazing to feel the support and the love after all these years,” he said.
As for summing up Felton’s life ... I’ll let him do that.
“I’ve had a good life; a great career, great friends, great family,” he said. “I really can’t complain.”
Contact Kirk Baird at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6734.
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