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Robert Siegel Superfans Say Farewell To 'All Things Considered' Host

For 30 years, Robert Siegel hosted NPR's <em>All Things Considered</em>. He retires Friday after 40 years with the network.
John W. Poole
For 30 years, Robert Siegel hosted NPR's All Things Considered. He retires Friday after 40 years with the network.

After 30 years, the time has come. Robert Siegel is stepping down from the host chair of All Things Considered.

And so many listeners have said just how much they'll miss him.

They come from all walks of life, working as truck drivers, speech therapists and Lyft drivers. There are a lot of things they'll miss about Robert, but one thing most of all.

"This will sound funny, he has a soothing voice to me, like it's not soothing where it will put you to sleep, but it's just really calm," says Eurdora Evans, 35, of Harvey, La.

And Evans isn't the only one. Many others recognize Robert's soft, direct voice, saying they get a sense of peace and calm; that "all is right in the world" when they hear it.

"There was just always something welcoming about turning on the radio, you know at 3 or 4 p.m. and having him be the first voice that I hear right after the news," says Helmar Menz, of Portland, Ore.

For Menz, 39, Robert is much more than a voice he hears on the radio.

"He is kind of a father figure," Menz says. "I don't know him as a person, but just the range of introspection that listening to his voice allows, I do think that it was some kind of father figure over the radio, honestly, over the last 20 years. And that's probably part of why I'll feel especially affected by his departure."

Over and over, listeners said how it wasn't just Robert's voice, but his presence that meant so much to people, like Kelly Purdue, 54, of Grand Rapids, Mich. She's been listening for more than 25 years.

"Being a hospice social worker, I have hard days that are sad and difficult, but, as I drive in my car, going about my daily tasks of visiting with patients and families who are dying, Robert was my companion," Purdue says. "He made my day better."

It's not just adults who will miss Robert. Generations of backseat NPR listeners grew up hearing him. Two of them are brother and sister Zaden and Kaia Eby-Holmes from Fishers, Ind.

"When my mom would just drive us places, she didn't like to listen to music, she'd just have NPR on, and I'd hear the name 'Robert Siegel,' " 16-year-old Zaden says. "I think the last name was great, you know, because we thought he was a bird. So, ever since then, he's just intrigued me. ... We'd hear, 'Hi, I'm Robert Seagull, and you're listening to NPR.' We'd just freak out, take us somewhere, fly us away."

Kaia, 15, says she wishes Robert would remain on air for years to come.

"I was really bummed out that no one, not even my kids are are going to be able to hear him in a whole bunch of years, to feel the joy of his voice, his name and laugh at his name and everything," she says.

It's not hard to see that people trapped in cars appreciate Robert.

Greg Gungor Atmaca is a Turkish Lyft driver. He says he's listened to Robert for more than 15 years.

This summer he actually picked Robert up when he was on a reporting trip in Boston. Atmaca didn't recognize Robert's face at first, but once he heard his voice, he knew exactly who his passenger was.

"He was great, that he asked me questions, and we exchange opinions," Atmaca said. "It was perfect, and I enjoy it so much, and I will never forget that the rest of my life."

But Robert's voice hasn't just been a constant presence in cars. Classrooms full of students have also learned from Robert. Elizabeth Voegeli, 32, started listening to him when she was in college. Now, as a high school teacher at Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach, Va., she listens with her students.

"Every time I hear an interesting interview that Robert conducts, I always will share those interviews with my students," Voegeli says. "We'll take a few minutes at the beginning of class and we'll tune in."

She says a lot of her students want to become journalists, so she tries to key them in to some of Robert's interviewing techniques.

"It seems that he always puts people at ease, regardless [of] whoever he's interviewing. And I call that to their attention," she says. "Despite whoever you're interviewing ... you have to keep a calm demeanor and you have to have a worldly perspective and I think that he does that."

Out of all the listeners who expressed how much they're going to miss Robert, one in particular really summed up how everyone at NPR is feeling.

John B. Cooper, 74, of Arvada, Colo., has listened to Robert since he was "Bob Siegel" 40 years ago.

He says, "When that mic goes dead, I will hope that he moves on to a great adventure and a wonderful life, because he has enriched my life, and I've been so proud to be able to be a listener over all these years."

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