In 2005, at the age of 93, Terkel had another round of open-heart surgery, which doctors described as terribly risky for a man his age. He was back at work within weeks, promoting his 16th book, "And They All Sang," an eclectic collection of interviews from his half-century on the radio.
Though he was nearly deaf by then, Terkel's memory for names, dates and bawdy anecdotes was impeccable.
Dressed in his trademark red and white checked shirt and red socks, Terkel would entertain visitors at his Chicago home with long rants against President Bush. His monologues were sprinkled with an array of allusions: He'd quote Shakespeare and Henry Kissinger and "Ode on a Grecian Urn" -- and then, moments later, delve into the details of the 1920s Teapot Dome scandal.
Though rarely given to introspection, Terkel did tell one interviewer that he felt he had shortchanged his family by being so absorbed in his work. His wife of 60 years, Ida, died in 1999. He is survived by their son, Dan, who altered the spelling of his last name to Terkell.
Terkel planned his funeral years ago.
He wanted readings from Mark Twain and George Bernard Shaw; music from Schubert and Mississippi bluesman Big Bill Broonzy. He wanted his ashes -- and Ida's -- to be scattered in the Chicago square where, as a young man, he stood on a soapbox and shouted out his leftist views.
And Studs Terkel wanted this as his epitaph: "Curiosity did not kill this cat."
Simon is a former Times staff writer.