News Column

Oprah Signs Off

May 26, 2011

Melissa Nann Burke


"The Oprah Winfrey Show," which averages 7 million viewers a day, will conclude Wednesday after 25 seasons.

We asked readers to share an episode of the show that changed their life.

My story with Oprah goes back years before her show, approximately 36 years. I was living in Baltimore at the time, and Oprah and Richard Sherr were on a show called "People Are Talking."

They did a special on people with agoraphobia. At the time, I was suffering with fear and an inability to go certain places.

Thanks to the show, I was able to talk about my problem with my dad. As a result, I went to Johns Hopkins Anxiety Clinic, where I was diagnosed with panic disorder, put on medication and have been panic-free since then.

Even before there was an "Oprah Winfrey Show" she had an effect on peoples lives.

- Sondra Jones of Windsor Township

I came here from Italy when I was 17. I overcame so many obstacles over the years, and as soon I learned to speak English, "Oprah" was the show I watched all the time.

I watched her grow to be what she is today. She's my inspiration.

But one show that really sticks in my mind was one where a few people overcame many health problems and started helping other people.

One lady, after the show, went back to her old ways and fell into a deep depression. But one day she watched a follow-up of her show by Oprah about the people that she (the lady) had touched (by telling her story). She ended up being touched by the same people (whom) she had touched.

Good luck, Oprah. You will always be my hero.

- Josephine Covello Shaffer of York Township

I have to say that the karaoke show changed my life. It made me proud to see her single out the less-than-famous singers.

I myself am a singer of karaoke. I would give it all to be on a stage and sing to many Americans.

. . . They told me (karaoke) was a fad. Well, 20 years later, the fad is still here.

I sing locally in York and surrounding places, singing with my heart and loving it. But I never got the chance to sing in front of many people, including my family and friends. My big dream is to get them all together and to sing, but that is difficult, as they all live everywhere -- locally and far away.

I wanted (this) one wish to sing to my family, as last year I spent almost all year in the hospital. Now I am healing, and trying to get back to the life I once had. . . .

- Cheri Thompson of New Freedom

A spontaneous prayer to always be a "life-giving nurse" emerged during an Oprah interview.

A physician spoke about her saga being the victim of a rare type of stroke. The recovery was long and drawn out. A few, simple words she spoke were especially impressive to me: "A patient can tell immediately if a nurse is life-giving."

As a licensed practical nurse at York Hospital since 1969, I've always been committed to good nursing care. "Life giving," however, added a new dimension and renewed my ardor for nursing.

Nursing is both a gift and a responsibility. How profound to be in a "life-giving" profession. I'm an internationally board-certified lactation consultant. Maternity is busy, and lactation can be a challenging specialty. At age 61, often I go home exhausted.

Vividly, I remember whispering this prayer as Oprah's guest spoke, "Father, help me be life-giving to the patients entrusted to my care. Amen."

Being with a newly created family is astounding. In January, I'll retire from the work I cherish. I want to thank the thousands of patients I've cared for -- you have been life-giving to me. My thanks to that Oprah guest who was "life-giving" to me.

- Angela Kane Sheffer of West York

Oprah was first on Baltimore television news (in the mid-1970s). It's interesting to see where she's come from and how far she's come.

She is a beautiful lady. She always took good care of herself as to how she looked and took care of her hair -- my sister's a beautician so we always paid attention to her hair. . . .

She carries herself so well. It's nice to see how far she's come. She's done so much good for people. . . .

She has certainly been a person viewers would enjoy. It's sad to know she won't be on her show anymore at 4 o'clock. She has influenced a lot of lives.

- Gladys Wright, 80, of North Codorus Township

I can see that Oprah is very interested in education. She has promoted many books. I remember one episode where she had teachers in the audience and gave them all new cars.

In 2005, I attended a perianesthesia (recovery room) nursing conference in Chicago. It was across the street from where Oprah films her show.

The nurses from Illinois informed me they had asked Oprah to do a cameo appearance at our nursing conference. She apparently could not find time for the nurses.

- Cynthia Druck of Chanceford Township

I love the lady. I love her passion to help people to better themselves, if only by knowledge and her way of sharing it!

I made up a reading program . . . I dress as a bug (some people say "bee" because my costume is black and yellow). I got the community to give me gently used books.

I count them, sort them and hand them out. I buy toy bugs and write "Read" on them. They are Buganeers! I also buy Mardi Gras beads to go with my message: "I will bug you to read."

The beads represent the continual reading -- for each bead, read another book. The circle (of the necklace) represents the circle of knowledge. . . .

I gave away over 100,000 reading-related materials. . . . I go anywhere I can pushing my cart full of books to give away.

Oprah always says, "Live your best life." I found a way to give and live my life. Every book I give away gives me goosebumps. And (again) when they see me and ask for more!

- Donna Watkins, 51, of York

Years ago, Oprah said, "Everyone has a book in them." Since then, I have produced 10 free-verse poetry anthologies.

This week, at my dear husband's funeral, a young man I mentored said, "I published my book, 'Noah's Alphabet.'" He was a dyslexic child, a throw-away student, who wrote and illustrated a children's Bible storybook that will enrich the lives of thousands of children. God is so good! It was life-affirming to hear his words. . . .

- Linda Amos of West York

If you watch

What: "The Oprah Winfrey Show" finale

When: 4 p.m. Wednesday

Where: WGAL-TV (ch. 8)


What's next for Oprah?

Oprah will focus on her Los Angeles-based television network, OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.

It debuted in January and aims to "entertain, inform and inspire people to live their best lives" -- a common theme of Oprah's. Targeting adults 18-49, programming focuses on talk shows, movies, documentaries and multi-part series.

So far, OWN's lineup includes a new talk show by Rosie O'Donnell, "The Dr. Oz Show," "The Nate Berkus Show," "The Gayle King Show," "Our America with Lisa Ling," "Extraordinary Moms," "Addicted to Food," "Home Takeover with Simon & Tomas" and a six-part documentary series, "Finding Sarah," about Sarah Ferguson rebuilding her life.

For details, visit

Oprah outlines her top 5 moments

Oprah listed her favorite moments of her show in the October 2005 issue of O, the Oprah Magazine

1. Her 67-pound weight loss (1988): Using a fasting and supplement program, Oprah went from 212 pounds to 145 pounds in four months. Wearing size-10 jeans she'd saved from years before, she pulled a wagon full of fat on stage.

"What I didn't know was that my metabolism was shot. Two weeks after I returned to real food, I was up 10 pounds . . . (Now), I know a whole lot better," Oprah wrote.

2. The Imago Theory (1988): Marriage therapist Harville Hendrix discussed the theory that, in essence, "it's not a coincidence that you've attracted your partner; that person is there to help you do the work of recovering from old wounds." Oprah began to view relationships as more than a romantic pursuit but also a spiritual partnership, she said.

3. A visit from her fourth-grade teacher (1989): Producers surprised Oprah by bringing Mrs. Duncan's of Wharton Elementary School in Nashville onto the show. Duncan's class was the first time Oprah "wasn't afraid to be smart," she said. "After all these years, I could say thank you to a woman who had a powerful impact on my early life."

4. A mass murderer strikes (1989): In the middle of an interview with a killer and the family members of his victims, Oprah realized, "I shouldn't be doing this. It's not going to help anybody." The show was never aired.

5. Children victimized by crime (1990): Oprah asked a boy blinded by a stray bullet at age 10 whether he could see his dreams: "After pausing for a few seconds, he lowered his head and finally whispered, 'Yes.'" Robert Jones returned to the show at age 18, having become a songwriter and later earning a college degree: "A testament to what can happen when we blow the lid off what's possible in our lives," Oprah wrote.

Oprah's all-stars

Oprah has helped to catapult myriad personalities to celeb-status:

Nate Berkus: The Chicago interior designer was a regular guest on "Oprah" until his own show debuted last year.

Kathy Freston: The "Veganist" author saw her book rise to No. 1 on after appearing on "Oprah" in February. (Oprah and 377 staffers went vegan for the week preceding the vegan-themed episode.)

Lisa Ling: A former host on "The View" and special correspondent for "Oprah," Ling, a journalist, now has her own show, "Our America with Lisa Ling," which premiered on OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network in February.

Dr. Phil McGraw: The psychologist gained a following from his appearances on "Oprah" in the late 1990s as a "relationship and life-strategy expert." His show, "Dr. Phil," debuted in 2002.

Suze Orman: A financial adviser, Orman gave away a million e-copies of her book "Women and Money" after an appearance on "Oprah" in 2008 and began hosting "The Suze Orman Show" later that year. She appeared on the TV show "Oprah's Allstars" in January and writes an advice column for O, the Oprah Magazine.

Dr. Mehmet Oz: Known as Dr. Oz, the physician first appeared on "Oprah" in 2004 and remained a health expert for five seasons. He currently hosts "The Dr. Oz Show" on TV and a talk show on Sirius XM Radio.

Rachel Ray: The launch of celebrity chef Ray's show in 2006 was promoted by recurrent appearances on "Oprah."

By the numbers


The number of seasons since "The Oprah Winfrey Show" debuted


The number of countries where "The Oprah Winfrey Show" is broadcast

$1 million

The cost of 30-second commercials airing during Wednesday's "Oprah" finale

Oprah inspiration

"Though I'm grateful for the blessings of wealth, it hasn't changed who I am. My feet are still on the ground. I'm just wearing better shoes."

"I don't think of myself as a poor deprived ghetto girl who made good. I think of myself as somebody who from an early age knew I was responsible for myself, and I had to make good."

"Live your best life."

"I've always known that life is better when you share it. I now realize it gets even sweeter when you expand the circle."

Glossary: All things Oprah

Harpo: Name of Oprah's Chicago-based production company ("Oprah" spelled backwards)

Oprah Book Club: Formed in 1996, the club originally featured works of fiction chosen by Oprah and, thus, causing the titles to shoot to the tops of bestseller lists.

Oprah Radio: Oprah's Sirius XM Radio channel

Oprah's Angel Network: A 1997 campaign to collect spare change for youth scholarships and to volunteer time to build homes with Habitat for Humanity evolved into the Angel Network charity.

Oprah Effect: Oprah's tendency to turn no-names into brand names

Oprahfication: Public confession as a form of therapy

Oprah-fy yourself: The fusing of a photo of Oprah with a photo of yourself (adding big hair, etc.)

Oprahisms: An app that provides Oprah quotes and wisdom

Oprahites: Oprah fanatics

OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network is a cable channel that launched in January

Source: Copyright (c) 2011, York Daily Record, Pa. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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