For more than five decades, Joyce Lamont's folksy, familiar voice was a fixture on Twin Cities 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, began her career at a time when few women were heard on radio. She started behind the scenes, as a continuity director, writing advertising and promotional 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.
Lamont 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 [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 appeared on air daily, at a time when WCCO dominated the airwaves over a five-state listening area.
"She was known for her recipes," said Viken, who had Lamont appear regularly on his WCCO morning show. "She'd read her recipes and special events and send recipes to listeners who requested them." More than 300 of her recipes were featured in the cookbook "Joyce Lamont's Favorite Minnesota Recipes and Radio Memories," by home economist Linda Larsen.
Lamont's culinary 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.
A North Dakota native, Lamont later moved to Minnesota with her family and attended the University of Minnesota.
Boone remembers Lamont as the "mother hen" of WCCO. "She would always remember birthdays and special events," he said. "She was a warm, feminine spirit in the station."
She also organized the WCCO football pool — and collected the bets, according to former colleagues.
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."
Reed Hagen, KLBB's promotion director at the time, said he jumped at the chance to hire Lamont. "Everybody liked her; everybody knew her. I grew up listening to her. In the radio business, you always hear 'This person is difficult,' " he said, but Lamont was an exception.
Lamont worked full time at KLBB well into her 80s and made occasional appearances after retirement. In addition to her recipes and special events, she was also known for her "Travel Notes" segments, Hagen said. She was never late for work, even though she didn't drive and took a cab everywhere she went, according to Hagen.
Lamont was "always a lady" and a stickler for grammar, according to Larson. "She was a great one for proper English language."
Viken, too, remembers Lamont as "very ladylike. She was soft-spoken." To tease her, Viken sometimes used "The Stripper" as her theme music to introduce her on-air segments. "She'd be exasperated, but I think secretly she loved it."
Services will be held at 1 p.m. Friday in the Coventry Chapel at the Episcopal Church Home, 1879 Feronia Av., St. Paul, with visitation at noon. Survivors include a niece and a nephew.