CHICAGO (CBS) — First came the shock of losing his friend Don Cornelius, then the discovery that just a few hours before his death, Cornelius left longtime friend and radio executive Marv Dyson three voice mail messages.
As CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez reports, Dyson said Thursday that he wonders if he might have made a difference if he was home to answer his phone when the “Soul Train” creator called a few hours before taking his own life.
Dyson knew Cornelius for 40 years and said he was shocked to hear of his friend’s death on Wednesday.
“I pulled off to the side of the road when my wife called. I just kind of sat there and went, ‘This can’t be real,’” Dyson said.
Then he discovered three messages left by Cornelius on his voice mail at home. The first message said simply “call me.”
“The second message was, ‘I’m going to be unavailable for a few days, because I have to go into the hospital,’” Dyson said. “I don’t know what that meant. And the third message was, ‘I’ve got the tickets for your son.’”
Dyson said he had hit up Cornelius for Grammy tickets and, as always, his friend came through. He said he wishes he could have returned the favor.
“If I just could have heard his voice that night, I might have been able to say something to make a difference,” Dyson said.
Asked if he saw any indication that Cornelius was in distress, Dyson said “no, not at all.”
Dyson had seen his old buddy last year when he returned to Chicago for his street dedication and, while he suspected Cornelius was having some health trouble, Dyson said he had no idea it could lead to this.
Dyson’s son Tony Cornelius said the family also failed to see the signs.
“I could tell that he was uncomfortable, but … our family could never know that he would … how uncomfortable he really was,” he said.
Tony Cornelius said his lasting memory of his father will be the happiness he brought to millions with dancing, music and style.
“It’s just a legacy of things that make me smile when I hear his voice, and I see the show, and it’s wonderful,” he said.
Dyson said he had asked Cornelius if he could nominate him into the Illinois Broadcast Association Hall of Fame. Cornelius agreed, but said he didn’t want to attend any events, because he didn’t want people to see him when he wasn’t feeling great.
Dyson said that comment just didn’t raise a red flag.