It began the way it always has: “From WAMU in Washington, I’m Diane Rehm,” she said, and then she paused, because this time was different. “I’ve said those words for so many years, thousands and thousands of times. I’ve always been so proud to say them.”

Over nearly 40 years on the air, Diane Rehm has hosted writers, artists, philosophers, Hollywood celebrities, foreign leaders and U.S. presidents. But on Friday, during the final airing of NPR’s “The Diane Rehm Show,” she spent most of her time speaking to the loyal fans who have listened to her every week.

There were, of course, a few high-profile cameos: singer and songwriter Judy Collins called, and sang a verse of “Amazing Grace” at Rehm’s request. Isabel Wilkerson, author of “The Warmth of Other Suns,” also phoned in.

Rehm’s career on the air began in 1979 when she became the host of “Kaleidoscope,” a weekday arts program aimed at homemakers; five years later, she re-launched it as “The Diane Rehm Show,” with the aim to tackle a broader and more ambitious range of topics.

Last year, she announced that it was time to step away from the microphone. She’d promised her boss that she would leave the show when she turned 80, she said.

“Really, it’s not goodbye, it’s farewell,” she said as she signed off.

“For now, I send all of you my love, and my prayerful hope for a Merry Christmas, and a peaceful new year.”

– From news service reports

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