COLUMBIA — Every week, Wynna Faye Elbert "talked straight" to the people of Columbia. On Saturday, residents of Columbia shared their memories of the radio host and community leader who spent more than 30 years talking to them.
KOPN hosted a program dedicated to Elbert during "Straight Talk," the radio program she created and hosted to address issues in the Columbia community. It is the longest running call-in radio show at the station and is now hosted by Bishop Lorenzo Lawson.
Elbert died Sunday, Feb. 9, at the age of 69 because of complications related to diabetes. The station opened up the airwaves to encourage people to share stories and memories of Elbert.
"She was constantly a champion for people who didn't have a voice in this community. She gave a voice to the voiceless," Lawson said.
Elbert was an employee of the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department and often used her radio show to draw attention to issues in the community.
"She worked for the city and came in to KOPN and talked about things the city was doing that she didn't agree with," longtime friend Curtis Soul said.
Elbert's daughter Debra Tapp-Williams called into the show to encourage people who did not get a chance to talk at her mother's memorial service to call in and share their stories of her mother.
Elbert's dedication to the community was the common thread of the stories and memories about her.
In addition to working for the Parks and Recreation Department and her role on the radio program, Elbert helped found the J. W. Blind Boone Heritage Foundation. She also worked to create the "Poor Man's Breakfast" and "Everybody Eats" with Almeta Crayton.
"Wynna Faye had a zest for serving the community. She would get out there and put her body, heart, mind and spirit into the community to serve and address social ills," said Gene Robertson, professor emeritus at MU.
Robertson emphasized that although Elbert dedicated her life to service, she never needed credit for it.
"You knew she was going to make lemonade out of lemons and she wasn't going to take credit for it," Robertson said.
KOPN's general manager, David Owens, hopes that by sharing stories of her accomplishments, people will be inspired to continue her work in the Columbia community.
"One of the best ways we can honor her is to pick up the projects that she started," Owens said.
Supervising editor is Edward Hart.