Dwyer's death at 46 hits Saluki family hard

By todd hefferman
The Southern

CARBONDALE - Julie Beck said you didn't have to personally meet Mary Jane Dwyer to feel like you knew her.

Dwyer, a public defender for Will County, died suddenly at age 46 at her home in New Lenox Thursday of apparent natural causes.

With John Riley and Southern Illinois University Hall of Famer Mike Reis, Dwyer helped make up one of the most popular morning programs in the area when she worked for WCIL-FM's morning show out of Carbondale.

"Everybody probably feels like they know Mary Jane," said Beck, a former women's basketball coach now part of the athletic department's groups sales and promotions department. "She came into everybody's home and was just a wonderful person. This is a huge loss. It's just a huge loss to the Southern Illinois family that knew her."

Dwyer was found by her sister at her home shortly after she began cleaning her house Thursday, according to SIU women's golf coach Diane Daugherty. She did not have any known health problems and had just been back in Carbondale in January to emcee the Saluki Hall of Fame banquet at the student center.

"It was a very unexpected passing,"

Daugherty said. "But she had a lot of friends here."

An SIU law school graduate and Carbondale resident for almost 20 years, Dwyer never married and didn't have any children. She left behind a sister and a brother. The die-hard Chicago White Sox fan was to meet Reis at Wrigley Field for SIU Day later this August.

"I was just stunned," Reis said. "What a dose of reality. Mike Trude was the one who told me, he called me this afternoon. I thought that I was in the middle of a dream, and I thought that I would wake up and realize that it was just a bad dream, but, obviously, it was not. It's not right.

"It is the way life is. But it's not right."

Reis said Dwyer's introduction at the Hall of Fame banquet for him was something he'll never forget.

"Clearly, she knew me," he said. "It was an emotional day for me, and I knew what I wanted to say, but wasn't sure if I could say it; but when she introduced me, it took me for a loop, and I remember stumbling because of it. It was tremendous."

Mark Prince, of the Prince Law Firm in Carbondale, started law school with Dwyer. With the Hughes and Prince Law Firm in Carbondale, she dealt with personal injury and some criminal defense, which she devoted more time to when she moved near Joliet.

"She was fun to be around, easy to talk to; just an all-around good person," Prince said. "She was a good lawyer. I don't think anything was off limits. She was just open. Mary Jane was Mary Jane. Everybody that I've spoken to is just in shock."

Trude, who knew Dwyer for over 20 years, was picking up the new football posters for this season when he heard the news.

"She came down every year to play in Diane Daugherty's golf tournament, she was the emcee at the Hall of Fame banquet. This was like her second home anyway," said Trude, who asked Dwyer to be a godmother to one of his children five or six years ago. "She was a news person, and John Riley, who's now working in Peoria, was the morning disc jockey. They would just chat,and it was almost a news-talk format on a top-40 station, which was rare at the time, and then sometimes her and Reis would get into it. It was an entertaining three-hour time span as anything you ever heard."

Reis, a broadcaster for over 20 years, called the morning show with Riley and Dwyer his best time in radio.

"We were a tight-knit group. We were all about the same age," he said. "Those were my best days in radio. She touched a lot of lives.

"I told (Trude) after he told me, and I'm telling you now - I'm still stunned."