Forever in his heart. Steve Wilkos has broken his silence about the death of his former TV mentor, Jerry Springer.
“Other than my father, Jerry was the most influential man in my life. Everything I have today, I owe to Jerry,” Wilkos, 59, told Us Weekly in a statement on Thursday, April 27. “He was the smartest, most generous, kindest person I’ve ever known. My wife [Rachelle Wilkos] and I are devastated. We will miss him terribly.”
Us confirmed earlier on Thursday that Springer had died at his Chicago home. He was 79.
“Jerry’s ability to connect with people was at the heart of his success in everything he tried whether that was politics, broadcasting or just joking with people on the street who wanted a photo or a word,” family spokesperson Jene Galvin told Us in a statement. “He’s irreplaceable and his loss hurts immensely, but memories of his intellect, heart and humor will live on.”
Galvin continued: “To remember Jerry, the family asks that in lieu of flowers you consider following his spirit and make a donation or commit to an act of kindness to someone in need or a worthy advocacy organization. As he always said, ‘Take care of yourself, and each other.’”
Springer, who battled a brief illness ahead of his passing, notably hosted his eponymous daytime show between 1991 and 2018. Throughout his TV tenure, the season 8 Masked Singer alum sparked a friendship with Steve after the military veteran was hired as one of the security guards for The Jerry Springer Show. Steve was even tapped as a substitute host for Springer during his 2006 run on Dancing With the Stars.
“I got hired to work security on the show for one day, so I thought I would just be there and be gone but then I was being hired to do more and more shows,” Wilkos recalled on Daily Blast Live in September 2022. “You know, Jerry came up to me and started talking to me one day while I was sitting outside and we both really loved baseball and we started talking about baseball and the next thing you know, when Jerry really started becoming huge, he didn’t want to travel by himself and he asked me to travel with him. You spend that much time together on the road [and] we became very close.”
After 10 seasons on Springer’s program, Steve ultimately left to host his own eponymous series. He has since helmed the Steve Wilkos Show for more than 15 seasons.