Judy Lee was born on Thursday, June 2, 1921 right here in Philadelphia. Her parents were Charlie & Helen Shinn, of South 54th Street in West Philadelphia. She appeared with child actor, Neil Harvey, a member of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia on the WCAU Radio broadcast, "The Children's Hour," hosted by Stan Lee Broza, our organization's first President.
As a teenager, blue-eyed Judy married Milton Kellem in 1937 and the couple lived in the West Mount Airy section (Greene and Phil-Ellena Streets) of the city. Milt was the owner of "Hamburger Heaven" on Locust Street in Center City. Broadcast Pioneers member Sam Bushman said he remembered Judy running the cash register at the hamburger eatery. He recalled that Milt told him how there was another place in New York City with a similar name and that Kellem changed the name to Hamburger Haven.
Milton was also a very well known as a local society bandleader in the forties and fifties. He performed many times for the DuPont family. He also played many gigs at the Anchorage on the East River Drive (now Kelly Drive). Milton also wrote songs (some for Lawrence Welk) but is probably best known for the hit "Gonna Get Along Without You Now," by Patience and Prudence.
Judy, before entering broadcasting was a well known model in the area. In 1938, she was named "Best Mannequin" of Philadelphia. She was also part of a so-called "sister" dance act. However, her partner, Betty Nolan, was, in reality, no relation.
Milt and Judy divorced after 13 years of marriage and Judy then married Broadcast Pioneers member Charles Lee in May of 1951 in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. The couple had a second marriage ceremony the next year. They lived in West Mount Airy (Mt. Pleasant and McCallum Streets) with Judy's children. The couple divorced in early 1958.
Judy Lee, 5 feet 8 inches tall, was known as the Channel 3 (WPTZ & WRCV-TV) Weather Girl and later the station's newscaster.
Judy Lee started with Channel 3 in 1952 doing live commercials during daytime TV broadcasts including Hollywood Playhouse. In 1955, she was hired by the station to do the daily late evening weathercasts at 11:15 pm. Judy's weathercasts were being broadcast in color by September of 1956. Just before her death, she started working with NBC-TV in New York as one of the co-anchor's of "The Today Show."
Judy and her family had just moved from Philadelphia to East Orange, New Jersey. The children were at summer camp in Downingtown at the time of her death. Lee was also known to have been a rather fine artist, a field, it seems, inherited by her daughter Jane. Every year, the University of Pennsylvania awards "The Judy Lee Award in Dramatic Writing for best script" to promising authors.
Judy had just started doing weekend newscast at WRCV-TV, Channel 3 in Philadelphia (owned at that time by NBC) just three weeks before her death. She was one of the country's first female newscasters. She finished her 6:25 pm Saturday newscast and left the station in what a local newspaper described as "good health." Judy passed away early the next morning of a pulmonary embolism on Sunday, August 3, 1958. She was 37. Thousands of her TV fans attended her funeral.
Jane Kellem Anderson, Judy's daughter, described her mother this way:
She was a wonderful mother with a very good nature and fabulous sense of humor. She always brought smiles on the faces of those who had the good fortune to know her. I still think of her fondly with a smile on my face, every day since 1958.
Judy Lee ended every evening weathercast with "good night and have a happy tomorrow." On Friday evening, November 16, 2012, Judy Lee was inducted into the Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame.
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Written and researched by Broadcast Pioneers member Gerry Wilkinson
Photo originally donated by Jane Kellem Anderson, Judy's daughter
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