Iconic former WESM radio host dead at 78

Aug 26, 2016

Marian C. Birkhead was host of WESM's 'Stairway To Heaven' gospel music program for over two decades.

WESM-FM has lost one of its own. Marian C. Birkhead, long-time host of WESM-FM's immensely popular gospel music radio program 'Stairway To Heaven', passed peacefully with a family member at her side on Wednesday, August 24. She was 78.

A viewing for Ms. Birkhead is scheduled for Friday, September 2, at Metropolitan United Methodist Church in Princess Anne, Maryland from 4 to 6 pm. Funeral services are to be held on Saturday, September 3, at the Ella Fitzgerald Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore at 11 am. A viewing will be held there from 9 to 11 am.  

WESM-FM plans to air a special tribute to Ms. Birkhead on Sunday, September 4, from 5 am to 5 pm--featuring 12 hours of archived recordings from several of her past shows.

A native of Salisbury, Maryland, Birkhead was the daughter of the late John and Allie Birkhead and leaves behind two children. She graduated from Salisbury High School and studied at Bennett College in North Carolina.

Active in the Somerset County Arts Council, Ms. Birkhead helped secure a grant to bring the African Children's Choir to the area twice.

Marian Birkhead was a member of Mill's Memorial Baptist Church, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Toastmistresses of America, and the NAACP.

Marian retired from doing her radio program in 2013, citing health concerns. She had been host of 'Stairway' since the late 1980s and had been employed with the University of Maryland Eastern Shore as an administrative assistant in the School of Business and Technology since 1974--retiring from UMES in 2009.

Marian brought warmth and compassion to her radio show each time she spoke through the microphone and all of Delmarva could feel it.

Ms. Birkhead leaves behind a legacy of family, friends, and the multitude of fans who were touched by her--and loved her right back.

The staff of WESM sends their condolences to the family of Marian. Her loss is a profound one and we will miss her greatly.