John Farneda, 59, a beloved FM rock ‘n’ roll radio programmer who along with his spouse rescued and restored part of a landmark Frank Lloyd Wright-designed estate in Riverside, died March 9, 2021.
Mr. Farneda was born Oct. 5, 1961 in Berwyn to Lino B. Farneda and Rose (nee Pedon) Farneda. His passion for rock ‘n’ roll music, particularly the Rolling Stones, led him to a career in radio, first as an intern for legendary radio host Terri Hemmert and then later as full-time staffer at WXRT-FM in Chicago.
He rose through the ranks, from assistant music director in 1985 to being named the station’s music director in 2001, a position he would hold for 14 years.
“John is one of those irreplaceable people we are lucky enough to know,” Hemmert wrote on her Facebook page following news of Mr. Farneda’s death from pancreatic and liver cancer. “Everything he was involved with he made special. That [Frank Lloyd Wright] house. WXRT. All of his many friendships.”
Mr. Farneda left the radio station in 2014, and the following year he and his spouse, Stephanus “Fanie” Greeff, bought the “bedroom wing” of Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Coonley Estate in Riverside.
The home had been sorely neglected and suffered damage in 2014 when vandals broke into the home and threw a party, leaving behind graffiti on the walls and broken windows.
The couple set about restoring the home, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2017, the Frederick Law Olmsted Society presented them with its Restoration Award, and they opened their home to visitors during the society’s housewalk in 2019.
In May 2017, Mr. Farneda returned to WXRT as the station’s music director, prompting the station’s operations director, Greg Solk, to remark, “John is WXRT.”
Mr. Farneda is survived by his spouse, Stephanus “Fanie” Greeff; his mother, Rose; and his brother, Lorenzo “Larry” Farneda.
A memorial service is being planned for later the year. Details will be shared.