In Radio, Betty Sanders Hit the Heights

With equal parts glamor, stage presence, charm and savvy, she forged a career that placed her amidst the top who’s who of the ‘70s and ‘80s. For more than 10 years, Betty Sanders and her husband Bob had their popular eponymous radio talk show on WBBM. From 1972 to 1983, the much-beloved couple interviewed prominent celebrities including, but not limited to, Carol Burnett, Tony Bennett, Desi Arnaz, Lawrence Welk, Mickey Rooney, and hundreds more.

“Some of what we discussed were topics people weren’t discussing back then, such as AIDS, anorexia, etc.,” says Betty, who adds, “We also originated quiz shows that people loved. People said that we were the radio equivalent of a newspaper features page.”

Betty, a resident of Friendship Village senior living community in Schaumburg, has also been an actress, speech coach, fashion show coordinator, public relations ambassador, and senior living manager. She initially started her career life as a model and television spokeswoman in St. Louis. During that time, she met Bob, who was an announcer on the show in which she was appearing. They married seven months to the day after they met. Through the years, they moved around the country, working for several different radio stations. Their show on WBBM was their longest assignment together.

In 1985, the couple became ambassadors for the Salvation Army. “At the time, the organization was starting its 100th anniversary in Chicago. It was a great year as we met with many people and helped to promote and coordinate different events while supporting the organization,” says Betty.

In the 90s, Betty and Bob moved to what had been their vacation home in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, and remained there for 20 years.

“We worked together on WISN radio for a couple of years, and then I decided I was done,” Betty recalls.

Making a move

Bob’s health started failing, and when he moved into a nursing home, Betty started working as the resident manager of a retirement community. “I hadn’t done anything like that before, but I decided to pursue it,” she says.

One of the perks of the job was that she lived in a beautiful apartment on-site, with “all the bells and whistles and perks. It was perfect,” Betty says, adding, “I stayed there for four years.”

Betty recalls recognizing the irony of her own advice as a senior living professional. “I remember I was showing some people around, and I heard myself saying to them, ‘you should really think about moving to a senior living community now so that you’re able to enjoy it.’ They were actually younger than I was, and I suddenly thought, ‘why don’t I take my own advice?’” 

Betty had toured Friendship Village years earlier and “fell in love with it.” She decided that’s where she would make her home, and she’s never looked back. “I really do love it. I have friends here, and I am in many activities and programs. I do all kinds of things.”

She has been involved with the Friendship Village TV crew, and with a nod to her former profession, she coordinated live interviews of various residents. She also participates in the community’s Laff a Minute improv class, is a marketing ambassador and loves using the aquatic center.

As a floor captain at the community, prior to COVID, Betty would coordinate monthly programs for her neighbors with cookies, coffee and conversation. “I’m in touch with a lot of people,” she says, adding that she looks forward to being able to return to their in-person social programs.

“We have amazing residents, and among them is Betty, who is an absolute gem. We’ve been fortunate to have her share her talents, intelligence, and huge heart with her neighbors and friends,” says Jill Steco, director of lifestyles at Friendship Village.

As the story appears in Chicago Tribune PrimeTime May 2021

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