IT HAS BEEN more than a year since he left her: the carefree 18-year-old son with the tousled hair and crooked grin.
Zachariah Miguel Rene-Ortega’s ashes are buried under an apple tree in a planting bed shaped like a tear. “Zack’s Grove” also includes Greensleeves dogwoods, two fig trees and a wooden bus shelter with a sign stenciled in white: “Every hour I need Thee.” Scattered about the grove are little talismans left by his friends.
Zack’s mother is Delilah Rene, the most-listened-to woman in American radio. She lives with her large family on a 55-acre Port Orchard farm, along with one zebra, three emus, three dogs, four pigs, five sheep, six cats, 30 goats and dozens of chickens. A remodeled 1907 farmhouse on the property serves as her six-bedroom, 2,500-square-foot home. A multiwindowed turret on the second floor is set aside for prayer. This farm is where Zack grew up and made friends with local kids who still come over.
“Stuff just shows up,” Delilah says, standing in the rain at the grove. “I come out here and find little tokens, mementos, stakes and flags.”
She still dreams of Zack: happy, beautiful, ageless.
When asked how she gets through each day’s mix of regret and sadness, she mentions God. “I know he’s with Him,” she says. “And when my time comes, I’ll be with him.”
MILLIONS OF LISTENERS know Delilah, 59, from the radio show named after her. Although her voice has the smoothness of rich cream with a hint of a Southern drawl, she is a child of the rural Pacific Northwest. Born in Reedsport, Oregon, she is steeped in the values of God, family, frugality and hard work.
Any given day, 55,000 people try to call in to vent, ask advice or dedicate a song to someone they love; her shows are a dialogue between Delilah and the 80 to 100 who actually get through. After listening to callers pour out their problems, Delilah finds a song that matches their situation.
Delilah’s common-sense advice and sympathy during the 34 years “The Delilah Show” has been on the airwaves have won her a huge following: 8.3 million listeners each week.
Her show airs daily from 7 p.m. to midnight on 164 stations (all listed on Delilah.com), stretching from Honolulu and Anchorage to Bangor, Maine. Her syndicator, iHeart Media, runs the show off its app and her website in a continual 24/7 loop. She recently picked up new markets in Buffalo, Philadelphia, Sacramento and Phoenix and, starting in January 2018, began a daytime show with KSWD in Seattle.
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