Minnesota has lost a radio legend – and broadcasting has lost a pioneer for women in the industry.
Minnesotans knew Joyce Lamont for her folksy on-air demeanor, which she used to share popular recipes, and impart travel tips and homemaking advice.
Lamont got her start in radio in 1950 at WCCO in Minneapolis, but not in the glamorous host's chair. According to the Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame, she began her career as the station's continuity director, writing copy for the hosts to read on the air. A stint as a "substitute host" led to an on-air career that spanned six decades. Lamont's rise to popularity and prominence was not the norm when she took to the microphone – at the time, broadcasting was a male-dominated profession, and according to the Star Tribune, few women were heard on the radio.
She left WCCO when her contract expired in 1989 but soon she was again engaging Twin Cities listeners with a new gig at KLBB in St. Paul. The Star Tribune says the move was painful for Lamont, but adds she was reunited with some of her old co-workers and eventually came to love her new home.
The Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame notes that, at her peak as a WCCO host, Lamont received 10,000 fan letters per month, outstripping every other radio host at the station.
Born in North Dakota, Lamont was a teenager when her family moved to Duluth and she graduated from the University of Minnesota's Twin Cities campus.
Lamont retired in 2003 and passed away Sunday at the age of 98.
Services will be at 1 p.m. Friday at Episcopal Church Homes in the Coventry Chapel in St. Paul, according to the Pioneer Press.
Cited as an arbiter of Minnesota epicure
Lamont was eleven years into retirement when one of her recipes – featured in “Joyce Lamont’s Favorite Minnesota Recipes and Radio Memories” – found itself at the center of the now-infamous "Grape Salad" controversy.
The New York Times faced a spirited social media backlash last month when it listed the fruity holiday concoction as Minnesota's signature Thanksgiving dish. It led to a lot of head-scratching and mocking from Minnesotans who'd never heard of it.
The paper said their source was an unnamed "Minnesota heiress" whose family had traditionally enjoyed the dish, and according to the Star Tribune, the Times' food editor cited Lamont's Grape Salad recipe to "bolster its case" for publishing it as a Minnesota favorite.
As far as we can tell, Lamont did not weigh in on the controversy.