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CHICAGO -- There were no free cars or vacations. No favorite things or makeovers. No celebrity guests on stage -- though there were plenty in the audience.
The finale of Oprah Winfrey's talk show, taped Tuesday and aired Wednesday, was all about the one thing that made her a billion-dollar success: the unique connection she made with millions of viewers for 25 years. In what she called her "love letter" to fans, she made clear that to her, all those TV friendships went both ways.
"Something in me connected with each of you in a way that allowed me to see myself in you and you in me," Winfrey said. "I listened and grew, and I know you grew along with me."
In the Toledo area, severe weather trumped Winfrey's final show.
WTOL-TV, Channel 11, pre-empted The Oprah Winfrey Show at 4 p.m. for coverage of the weather through northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan. Andi Roman, WTOL's news director, said the show will air in its entirety between 4 and 5 p.m. Thursday.
"We understand the importance of Oprah's final show, but when it comes to tornadoes and severe weather, that's the biggest factor that we worry about. Our team of meteorologists is on top of making people safe," she said.
Ms. Roman said she made the decision to delay Ms. Winfrey's show and conferred with the station's general manager.
WTOL's decision didn't affect Earlean "Cookie" Belcher, club founder of Oprah's Biggest Fans in Northwest Ohio. She and some of the club's other members watched the Winfrey finale on WXYZ-TV, Channel 7, the ABC affiliate in Detroit, which can be seen on Channel 51 on Buckeye CableSystem.
During the final show, Winfrey was the only person on stage with little background music and short flashback clips. The show went to commercials with "Twenty-Five Years," a soft song that musician Paul Simon wrote and recorded for her.
She called fans her "safe harbor" and became teary eyed when reflecting on her upbringing in rural Mississippi.
"It is no coincidence that a lonely little girl," Winfrey said, choking up, "who felt not a lot of love, even though my parents and grandparents did the best they could, it is no coincidence that I grew up to feel a genuine kindness, affection, trust, and validation from millions of you all over the world."
Winfrey told viewers that sometimes she was a teacher, but more often her viewers instructed her. She called Wednesday's episode her "last class from this stage."
At one point she thanked viewers for sharing her "yellow brick road of blessings" -- something she said back in November, 2009, when she announced that she would end her show. The program gave rise to a media empire, including a magazine and her own cable network, which she launched in January.
Wednesday's show was the last piece of a months-long send-off, but Winfrey stopped short of saying farewell. "I won't say goodbye. I'll just say, until we meet again," she said.
She hugged and kissed her longtime partner, Stedman Graham, and shook hands with audience members before walking through the halls of Harpo Studios in Chicago, hugging and crying with her staff. She shouted, "We did it!"
The last shot of the finale showed Winfrey walking away with her cocker spaniel, Sadie.