After being diagnosed with MS, Kevin Matthews came across a broken statue of the Virgin Mary in a flower shop parking lot. That broken statue would turn into an icon of hope around the world. Legendary Chicago radio personality and author of “Broken Mary: A Journey Of Hope,” Kevin Matthews joins Dan and Amy to discuss his book chronicling his radio career and his coming back to the Church.
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Dan Proft: So I get to work with a Chicago broadcasting legend every day in Amy Amy Jacobson: Oh yeah right, sure D: Yeah and so the additional treat of getting to talk to a Chicago broadcasting legend is something. How do I know Kevin Matthews is a broadcasting legend? Well, I mean because I’m familiar with his career A: Well we grew up with him. D: Yeah, also because you were fixing your hair even though he’s on the phone in preparation for the interview. A: Well I just want to make sure if he’s watching, you know, online- D: Sure, sure. No, of course. A: -that he knows that I care about my appearance. I love Kevin Matthews, I uh went to prom with Kevin Matthews, I think I gave birth to his first child. D: Wow, well let’s resolve that right away. We’re pleased to be joined by, well you know. All you Kev Heads. Kevin Matthews. Kevin Matthews thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it. Kevin Matthews: Thank you, Dan. And uh Amy, are you sure Trav is uh... You gave birth to my son, Trav? A: Yeah. K: Oh man. A: He came out kicking and screaming. K: Oh wow wow wow wow wow. Well he’s all grown up now, he’s a muscisian. He’s out on the road with uh Kings of Leon believe it or not. A: Oh that’s great! D: Is he really? Oh that’s awesome! K: He’s in a great band called Dawes and uh they’re actually uh in Mexico City in two days and they’re uh wrapping up a tour with Kings of Leon. D: I saw them at the United Center when they came through Chicago. It’s excellent. K: Ok yeah. D:Yeah cool. K: How about that? Yeah, Chicago it’s so good to be back in the air briefly in Chicago. D: Well and and Amy must be proud of your son as you are too. So that’s great as well A: I am. Kevin: Yeah. D: So you wrote this book, Broken Mary, uh to start there, um and it uh chronicles you know your time in radio as historic as it was, but also- and maybe we’ll work back to radio and start with the uh what seems to me the overriding purpose of the book particularly per the title Broken Mary. It’s uh- you’re kind of coming back to your faith after being diagnosed with MS. K: Yeah, you know I left Chicago- I had such a great career, and I’ve still got so many roots in Chicago- and in 2005 the whole radio industry is you know going through a change and you can see the changes today, but I decided I wanted to go back to where I started and that was in Michigan. I just wanted to go back to the starting line and um what happened in 2005, the housing market uh begins to crash and so I’m commuting now from Chicago in Michigan for basically three years and in 2008 I was on the air back at the station where my whole career started in Michigan. I couldn’t move, I-I didn’t know, honestly I thought I was having a stroke. I went to a neurologist they found a mass in my brain they said ‘if this is cancer, we can’t operate, and uh you know, prepare yourself,’ and I was about an hour away from getting a brain biopsy at Northwestern and um they came in and said “no it was a rare form of MS” and so that that started a ton of treatment and what not. And uh what had happened- and that’s again that’s in uh 2008. This whole story I wrote it’s really not about me, it’s a fascinating story because I one day it’s 2011 and I just hear a voice that says “go buy your wife some flowers” because you know when you’ve got someone with disabilities, the whole family is impacted by that, and I look up and there’s a flower shop. I pull in it’s uh a snowy little uh November morning. I get out of my truck, I’m walking towards the door and I look over and I see this dumpster, just a big garbage dumpster, and I saw this statue of the Virgin Mary lying on the ground. She’s broken in half, she’s covered in trash, her hands are missing, and I like I went over there and there’s no way, I just heard this voice that said “will you deny me? Will you deny my mother?” and I walked into the flower shop and there was a clerk and I said “I want to uh I want to buy that uh that statue of Mary outside,” and she goes “no no no, that’s not for sale,” and then again I heard that voice “will you deny me, will you deny my mother?” and I just said a quick prayer “help me,” and I just, I said “I’ll give money to those nuns out there.” Well I had no idea who those nuns were. They end up, they’re Franciscan nuns. The lady she says “I know you. Your voice, you sound familiar. You do, you’re the morning show voice,” and I go “yeah,” and that was my window of opportunity and I got the uh statue. She’s broken in half, she’s about four foot tall. In the spring a friend of mine, a priest, said “I know there’s a monument maker that can put her back together.” So i went out there and he wanted to make- put new hands on her and fresh paint and I said “no no, she really reminds me of me” because at that time I’m so broken you know with the MS, and I said “no, let’s keep her broken,” and she kind of represents everybody and that’s when we named her Broken Mary and she was blessed. And the journey that this statue’s been on in the last couple of years is totally amazing. A: Well what is the journey with this statue? K: The statue is basically what has happened is people will take this statue and she and they will bring her into hospice, or they bring her in intensive care. She’s gonna tour prisons, she’s gonna go overseas, uh there’s a uh big uh pro life rally and in Ireland uh we are working on that. This statue has a life of its own and it’s uh it’s amazing how this statue is touching so many lives and it also- it’s it’s powered by the rosary and how important the rosary is. It’s such an old form of prayer. Mary gave us the rosary in the 13th century and it’s, you don’t have to be Catholic to recite the rosary. That is just uh a very powerful weapon D: There’s also, there’s also a story that you recount of going to uh Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside. K: Yep. D: And praying yourself and that experience K: That was uh that was uh that cemetery uh uh my wife and I and a few if you look back at the history of that cemetery on Hillside that’s uh where Al Capone is buried and it’s just a huge cemetery and I remember it was it was St. Paddy’s Day 2009. I had to go out Clairton Hills to see it turning and it was St. Paddy’s Day, and normally I take the Stevenson, but I had to take the Eisenhower cause of the St. Paddy’s traffic and I hate the Eisenhower. A: So do I. God bless you we agree. K: I hate it. So I’m getting, I get on the Eisenhower and I hear this voice “go to the cemetery,” and I know exactly what cemetary and I go to Hillside. It’s off road, I drive in, and you can get so lost so easy but I drive to this huge cross and uh it’s a beautiful morning uh just not a cloud in the sky. I sit there, and I get out of my truck and I walk towards it because I am really battered with MS now and I don’t know what it’s just it’s tough. Am I going to be kicked out of radio? And I walked up to the cross, and I put my hand on it’s gigantic- I’ve got to stretch, and I put my hand on and all of a sudden I felt water just running down my hand and my arm and that- my arm was affected by the MS and it was hard and it it was numb all the time I couldn’t really use it well. It came back to life. To this day, it just works perfectly and I just said I’m so scared what do I do? And after that day you know it just uh it it actually I’m blessed to have this MS because people have it so much harder in their lives and I’ve met some incredible people. I’ve been able to help people that are diagnosed with MS uh so it’s been a blessing. D: And suffice it to say you’re uh a proponent of the power of prayer? K: Oh without a doubt there’s no question folks, especially in the times we live in today. People are starving for spirituality,. They really really are and this book uh you know what in four years I I finally met those nuns, those Franciscan nuns and they to this day are dear friends and we do so much together. One was a writing professor, Sister Lucia. I went out I and uh this priest said the sister “hey this guy’s got a story you should really read, you should help write it.” Well I conned her in, I said “listen Sister, you can write this story about Broken Mary” she says “no I’m not gonna write it , you are” and uh we wrote it and she produced it and we sent it off to three of the biggest publishing companies and all three of them wanted the book. The bottom line is again this is not my story, it’s Mary’s story, it’s Mary working miracles she- we ended up on Beacon Books which is the biggest publishing company. The book has done really well, it’s in paperback now. Yesterday I literally, I’m- somebody wants to make a movie um it’s just amazing because this it’s called Broken Mary: A Journey of Hope , you can get the book on Amazon and it starts when I’m four years old, how did I get into radio and why the kind of comedy that attracted me at the time. You’ll find out all this stuff. It’s just uh it’s a motivating book, beautiful book and moreso today Mary, the power of the rosary is amazing see, see where this goes. A: Kevin Matthews, a radio icon, a legend in Chicago, uh I have to ask, have you always had God and Jesus in your life or- K: Yeah- A: In some way or another? K: Yeah you know somebody somewhere recently goes “when did you become a jesus freak?” I go “well when I was four” because we- I grew up outside Detroit in at that time in the 60’s in the early 60’s it was just volatile outside and inside my house and I was so young yeah and I was going to church and it was a big building and there was this guy named God and I just wanted it literally every night at because I lived in a pretty violent household I just wanted to die and go to heaven D: So so radio and some of the characters you ultimately created that were so popular was kind of an escape from that? K: Oh big time to bond, the divine gym shorts, all this stuff, yeah and it’s in the book how all these characters came about. In fact, Jim writes three times in this book and it was Sister Lucia who had that idea like “hey why don’t we bring Jim in” and it’s a uh it’s a dichotomy there that’s very interesting. D: Well just uh to close a loop, how are you doing healthwise at this moment? K: You know what? I’m not kidding you I uh I um um I’m working out uh there’s some things I can’t do but at the same time i’m working with people and uh especially younger people that are being diagnosed uh with uh with MS and it’s I’m I’m blessed, I truly am. D: And and we should ask a professional question too just since you’re an expert in the space. How much longer do you think Amy and I have before radio goes the way of the daily newspaper? A: Well the one constant thing about radio is change I can tell you that. K: At the same time, you know this you two are great at what you do it’s all about content you know and you’re in a city that is just loves content and you know you guys are you’re doing a great job. AA: Well thank you so, and I’ve just got a few text messages. One of my college teammates was just diagnosed with MS. I have to send her this book. Where is it? On Amazon? K: Yes uh it’s called Broken Mary: A Journey of Hope. It’s on Amazon it’s uh on Dynamic Catholic. You can get it on Amazon and get it delivered but I’m gonna be speaking at this two day conference in Elmhurst on Nov 12th. I’ll be speaking 11th and 12th it’s uh the Clairion Inn Conference Center in Elmhurst and I’m bringing the statue over and uh. D: Oh wow K: Yeah people can see the statue and people can actually take this statue like I said I-I think we’re on our way to Ireland and it’s it’s amazing how this statue is coming into people’s homes and the miracles that are happening around this statue. D: Still impacting hundreds of thousands of lives, he is Kevin Matthews Chicago’s radio icon. I know it’s fun for our listeners’ day to catch up with you and hear about what’s going on with you and the important work that you’re doing and learn about the book uh. The book, Broken Mary: Journey of Hope, uh you can get it at Amazon. Kevin Matthews, thanks so much for joining us, we really appreciate it. K: Both of you- and now Amy I’ll tell your son Trav you said hi. A: Please and tell him I’m so proud of the little bugger. D; Good luck Kevin. K: Thank you Chicago A: Thank you, God bless you and he joined us on our-