Minnesota radio legend, Denfeld grad Joyce Lamont dies at 98

For more than five decades, Joyce Lamont's folksy, familiar voice was a fixture on Minnesota airwaves. "She was a pioneer," said retired WCCO radio announcer Charlie Boone, who worked with Lamont for many years. Lamont, who died Sunday at age 98,...

WCCO radio broadcaster Joyce Lamont in an undated photo. Lamont, a Duluth Denfeld graduate and Minnesota radio legend, died Sunday at age 98. (Voyageur Press / News Tribune file)
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For more than five decades, Joyce Lamont’s folksy, familiar voice was a fixture on Minnesota airwaves.
“She was a pioneer,” said retired WCCO radio announcer Charlie Boone, who worked with Lamont for many years.
Lamont, who died Sunday at age 98, grew up in Duluth and began her career in the Twin Cities at a time when few women were heard on radio. She started behind the scenes, as a “continuity director,” writing copy for others to read on the air. But once she got the opportunity to be a substitute host, she became a regular on-air presence for more than 40 years at WCCO and later at KLBB, until her retirement in 2003.
“She had a marvelous voice,” Boone said of Lamont, who was inducted into the Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2001. She became the voice of “Dayton’s Musical Chimes,” the long-running “Best Buys” and other programs. She worked with many of the best-known personalities in Minnesota broadcasting, including Bob DeHaven, Howard Viken and Jergen Nash.
“She loved it (radio), and loved her listeners,” said longtime friend Dee Larson.
Lamont’s listeners returned the love. She received as many as 10,000 letters a month, more than any other broadcaster at WCCO, according to her Hall of Fame biography.
She was known for sharing recipes, more than 300 of which were featured in the 2008 book “Joyce Lamont’s Favorite Minnesota Recipes and Radio Memories,” by home economist Linda Larsen.
Lamont’s recipe credentials got an unexpected shout-out last month from a New York Times food editor trying to bolster the newspaper’s case for publishing Grape Salad as a controversial Minnesota Thanksgiving favorite. “You know who had a pretty cool recipe for holiday grape salad, Minnesota? Joyce Lamont,” Sam Sifton said.
Born in North Dakota, the daughter of a doctor, Lamont’s family moved to Duluth when she was a teenager. She graduated from Denfeld High School in 1934 and attended Duluth Junior College before her family moved to Minneapolis, where she graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in English and journalism.
She became an on-air broadcaster purely by accident. While working at WCCO radio as a script and ad writer in 1950, she was asked to read a couple of lines on air because a woman's voice was needed and no other woman was in the office. Her voice was perfect for radio. Soon, she was recruited for on-air segments that led to the popular "Morning Program." There she served as the on-air home economist despite the fact that she had little time to cook herself.
With the slogan "Good Neighbor to the Northwest" and a powerful AM signal, WCCO was heard in Duluth and throughout much of the Midwest.
Boone remembers Lamont as the resident “mother hen” of WCCO. “She would always remember birthdays and special events,” he said. “She was a warm, feminine spirit in the station.”
Lamont left WCCO in 1989, after her contract was not renewed, but soon found a home at KLBB, where she rejoined several of her former WCCO colleagues. Leaving WCCO was “very painful,” according to her friend Larson. “But she was happy to be invited over to KLBB, and she loved it there.”
Lamont also loved to travel, said Larson, who formerly owned a travel agency and met Lamont through a tour. They became friends and often traveled together. “We cruised the world.”
Lamont was “always a lady” and a stickler for grammar, according to Larson. “She was a great one for proper English language.”
Services will be held at 1 p.m. Friday at Episcopal Church Homes, in the Coventry Chapel, 1879 Feronia St., St. Paul.

The News Tribune contributed to this report.

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