(WYCD) Linda Lee, legendary broadcaster and WYCD 99.5 FM’s award-winning afternoon drive co-host, died Friday after a seven-month cancer battle. She’s survived by her husband Jeff Young, daughter Gina (Dan) Holmes Mills, and step-daughter Alexa Young.
Lee, a Detroit native, revealed her Stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis in September 2016, just a few months after celebrating her 20th year on the air at Detroit’s WYCD last July. She was diagnosed two weeks before her daughter’s wedding.
From humble beginnings working on the assembly line at Ford Motor Company, Lee began her tenure at WYCD as a member of the morning show in 1996. She later teamed up with co-host Chuck Edwards for the long running “Edwards & Lee” afternoon drive show. Edwards & Lee were together for 16 years – collecting a number of national accolades – before Lee paired with Rob Stone after Edwards moved to mornings in late 2015.
“From the get go, Linda and I forged a friendship that’s lasted for nearly 20 years,” Edwards said. “I could get very mushy about Linda’s attributes, but the glue that kept us together was that we made each other laugh.”
A hearty laugh was her hallmark. Always a fan favorite, Lee was known as personable and warm, the kind of person who never met a stranger.
“Linda has the biggest heart in radio and is one of the most positive people I’ve ever met,” said Tim Roberts, longtime friend and CBS’ VP of country music programming. “Her efforts to help the everyday blue collar worker or friend in need in Detroit are unmatched in radio. It’s easy to understand why people love her so much, she pours it out every day.”
Her friends are everywhere, from those who listen to her while they work the line to the biggest names in country music. The day Lee celebrated her 20th year at WYCD, Stone arranged for country stars to call and congratulate her; names like Keith Urban, Justin Moore and Frankie Ballard. Big & Rich sent a video message.
While the congratulatory calls were a testament to the imprint Lee left on the industry, she was mostly thankful to spend two decades doing what she loved, in a city that she loved.
“They’ve flown by, right here in my hometown,” Lee told Billboard in July, speaking of her 20 years at WYCD. “I’ve been blessed beyond measure. I am having as much fun today as I had 20 years ago when I first got into the business. Every day is exciting. I can’t believe I get paid for it.”
Even at the end, when the prognosis was dire, Lee stayed positive and strong. Her final messages on Facebook were a testament to her spirit. “Good morning all my AWESOME family & Friends!!” she wrote. “You may have already heard the bad news that my small cell cancer spread during chemo, and was impeding my breathing big time. BUT….KEEP THE FAITH and PRAYERS coming, because God is GREAT” Debbie Kenyon, CBS Detroit’s market manager and senior vice president, described her as a person whose glass was always “90 percent full.”
That’s just who she was.
“My favorite thing about Linda Lee is her tremendous positivity,” Stone said. “No matter what the situation, Linda always finds a way to put her smiling, optimistic spin on things. If we all were as positive as Linda, the world would be a happier place.”
She was also a passionate fan of country music, explaining it this way on WYCD: “Country music is like a ‘best friend,’always there for you in all your times of need,” she wrote. “There is a country song to describe all the monumental and ordinary moments in my life. And all it takes is a few bars of a song that has touched my heart, and instantly I am taken back to a time & place in my life, and all the memories that go with it.”
Lee was trying hard to get healthy enough to make the trip to Las Vegas to accept her first Academy of Country Music award as a major market personality on Sunday. Co-host Rob Stone will accept the award on her behalf.
Rest easy, Linda.