Smile Politely

Celebrating C-U Life: Diane Ducey

Entering the radio station, many voices can be heard. Some are recognizable due to this writer being an avid listener of all the stations in the area. There’s one voice, though, that stands out from the others. Chances are if you’ve flipped on the radio or attended a local event during your days in central Illinois you’ve heard it too. When hearing her greeting in person it’s just as electric as it is on the radio. That’s par for the course with “The Duce.”

A lifelong member of the central Illinois area, Diane Ducey was born at Mercy Hospital, which is now known as Provena Covenant Medical Center. The youngest of six children you might say that Ducey was accustomed to being a voice in a large group from the beginning. The daughter of a concrete worker, Ducey’s family has firm roots in the community. Her father was one of the workers who built the Assembly Hall. Her father was no stranger to hard work and that ethic was expected of his children, too. Ducey recalls weekends helping the family lay cement. Her brothers continue the family tradition with their current business Duce Construction.

Ducey’s childhood was more than brick and mortar. Aligning with her current work, Ducey’s family enjoyed a love of singing which she attributes to her mother. Smiling as she talks about her family, Ducey goes on to describe a loving mother who was involved in church and instilled a deep faith in the family, a faith that is still a big part of Ducey’s life today.

As a child, it wasn’t uncommon for Ducey to be in her room, makeshift mic in hand, singing along to the classics of the time. Ducey also sang at her church and adds that she was never one to shy away from performing in front of large crowds. One of her earliest performances was alongside another familiar voice at her station: Stevie Jay. Chuckling as she talks about her childhood years, she describes performing at Unity High School where Ducey and Stevie made magic happen with their rendition of The King and I. Thirty-five years later, they’re still making magic happen through SJS Broadcasting. Tune into ConnectFM on an early weekday morning and you can catch them discussing current news and chatting it up with community members. Ducey is a natural on the radio, but she’s had a long history with broadcasting.

Ducey started her career at Eastern Illinois University. Originally slated to play volleyball for the university, an unfortunate injury benched her. Not wanting to miss an opportunity to participate, Ducey announced games for the team. An audience member at one game just happened to run the local station WEIU. He invited her to work for him as a DJ. The meeting proved to be the moment that changed the game for Ducey. Running the overnight show from 6:00 p.m.–12:00 a.m., Ducey worked her way up to program director. Overseeing up to 80 students, Ducey flourished in the radio setting. Believing that music can be a great learning experience for listeners, she enjoyed the diversity of air play on WEIU. She also knew she’d found her calling. Since then, she’s been a familiar voice for more than one station in Champaign, thus creating a name for herself.

She enjoys her current radio gig. Being low maintenance, radio allows her to focus less on the morning routine and more on what she can do via the airwaves. She jokes that her 14 year old daughter is the one in the house who primps before heading out the door in the mornings. Ducey also points out that being on the radio allows her the opportunity to keep the community up to date on activities, news, and even emergency situations. The immediacy of radio means direct communication with listeners, which can make a difference during a crisis situation. But that’s just one of the ways she uses her signature voice.

Ducey has deejayed and emceed local events from the 4th of July Parade in C-U to 5ks around the area. Her weekends are busy with community events, which is just fine with her. Community involvement is important to Ducey. She talks about the great family-friendly events in the area and how radio is integral in promoting those events. She mentions upcoming events, such as the Taste of Champaign, the Blues, Brews, and BBQ festival, and the Sweetcorn Festival. An upcoming event in Tolono is a staple of her summer and one she helps to coordinate. Her face once again lights up as she talks about the Tolono Fun Day, which is June 30th. The event packs in a variety of activities for families. Included are a 5k, softball games, tractor pull, and music this year from The Boat Drunks. Ducey talks about her father’s involvement in the improvement efforts that have occurred over the years at East Side Park. A great park program now, Ducey is excited to be part of the event again this year.

Even with a busy schedule Ducey is involved with her children’s activities and interests. Having three kids means an even fuller schedule than what her career requires. Her children Gabby, Anna, and Aiden keep her busy with Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, sports, school dances, and youth group. She recalls her first date with her husband and the hilarity that ensued. During their date, her husband, who was a bit more reserved than her, mentioned having never been to a particular nearby bar. She jokes about taking the date from a simple dinner to fun at one of her local stomping grounds where Ducey’s presence was celebrated from the minute she stepped in the door. She goes on to say that she enjoys life to the fullest, even kicking back with a cigar and some whiskey once in a while.

Ducey has a zest for life and infectious personality. Her stories regale her audience and offer a window into who she is. One story she shares touches on an event that affected not only her, but also the nation. Ducey talks about being 15 blocks from the World Trade Center when the buildings were hit. In town for a Michael Jackson concert with her husband, Ducey’s plan to leave on 9/11 and return to Illinois were changed when the world around her was impacted by the events of that day. What was so amazing to her was how the people around her came together. She and her husband rented a car as all flights were suspended nationwide. Amidst the chaos of the situation people came together in a way you might only see in small towns. “Someone going to California was giving a ride to someone who needed to get to Chicago.” Witnessing an event that shattered some, Ducey was able to see how Americans began mending the situation with simple gestures of kindness.

Ducey returns to her normal programming of laughter as she jokes about the material she’s provided during her interview. As she heads back to the studio it’s easy to see why she’s invited to participate in community events, and why she’s such a staple in our community. She leaves a smile on the face of anyone lucky enough to share her company.

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