Love her or hate her, it's hard to deny that Oprah Winfrey's talk show struck a chord with suburban residents.
For the past 25 years, Oprah has been part of the daily routine for thousands of suburban women and men. Whether they consider her merely a form of entertainment or a life-changing force, she's been there at 9 a.m. to tell inspirational or heartbreaking stories, pitch (and give away) products and books, or chitchat with A-list celebrities.
As Oprah airs her final show Wednesday, her fans will tune in to what Oprah's producers compare to the last episode of "M*A*S*H" in 1983 or the finale of "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" in 1992. Some will even celebrate with parties, perhaps serving Moscow Mules and Pomegranate Martinis (two of Oprah's favorite cocktails).
Laurie Hannula, 42, is hosting an Oprah finale party Wednesday morning and asked guests to dress in their pajamas, so they can lay on the couch and eat bonbons -- mocking the stay-at-home mom stereotype.
"There'll be one TV on in the kitchen, by the coffee and the food, so people who don't care can laugh and talk and make fun of her, and we'll have another TV on in the other room so people who like her can sit down, watch the show and cry," she said.
But many fans, like Cindy Duckworth, 48, of Hoffman Estates, must go to work Wednesday. She'll watch the show on her DVR when she gets home or when it replays at 11:05 p.m.
"It'll be sad ... but I think it's going to really sink in when the show's not on again in September," she said.
Christy Newman, 45, of Lincolnshire, said Oprah's departure from daytime TV will definitely leave a void because there's no other show that has the power to inspire people like Oprah's did.
"It's like television will never be the same again," she said.
Meanwhile, suburban fans have plenty of memories. Here are some of them:
Q. Has Oprah changed your life?
"She encouraged me to go back to school and get my master's degree (in English Studies, at Elmhurst College). I've learned from the show to let go of fear and surrender to your dreams. I believe in that "Wizard of Oz" quote she always says, 'You've always had the power.'"
-- Carolyn Wilson, 53, of Villa Park
"I think she helped my marriage. She's done so many shows on relationships, and with Dr. Phil ... it made me think about things in different ways. She has opened my mind and given me so much useful information."
-- Diane Aktan, 50, of Schaumburg
Q. What was your favorite Oprah show?
"That show on Africa, where she showed how children lived in such poverty, and in houses without roofs. That sort of hit me. I have two kids, and I made them watch it so they knew not everyone lives like they do."
-- Christy Newman, 45, of Lincolnshire
"The road trips she did with (her best friend) Gayle. I like how she values friendships. I like the funny shows as much as I like the tear-jerker ones."
-- Sue Witte, 48, Bartlett
"I like when she changes a family's life, when they're down on their luck and she helps them."
-- Angela Niu-Diep, 26, of Palatine
Q. How big of an Oprah fan are you?
"I saw her come out on the very first day of her show, in her fur coat, and I've been watching ever since. She's sort of my guilty pleasure, and I look forward to it every day. She just reaches out to everybody."
-- Gayle Friedman, 60, of Libertyville
"Huge. It's because ... she's such a good soul. There's no other way to put it."
-- Cynthia Watt, 72, of Barrington
Q. What are some of your favorite things about Oprah?
"It's really cool what she's done for literacy, and she's exposed me to some different perspectives. She doesn't just appeal to people in the suburbs, but people in all cultures, ages, and backgrounds. I like that she takes people out of their comfort zones. And I like the giveaways, because people get so excited."
-- Barbara Watts, 27, Arlington Heights