“Hello Good Friends”…Wynn Speece, WNAX Neighbor Lady Passes Away at 90 Radio pioneer Wynn Speece, known for more than six decades as “The Neighbor Lady,” died Monday, October 22, 2007 at a Yankton hospital at the age of 90.
As “The Neighbor Lady,” Speece shared recipes, household tips and personal anecdotes with radio listeners.
Speece, a Marshalltown, Iowa, native, started WNAX in 1939. Her program started two years later and continued until December 2005.
In 64 years of broadcasting, Speece was welcomed into the homes of homemakers and farm wives throughout the five-state area covered by WNAX. She offered helpful household hints, and her signature was the recipes she shared with her listeners.
Through the years, Speece has made numerous personal appearances, written a number of cookbooks and become a household icon in the area.
Speece began working at WNAX shortly after graduating from Drake University with a degree in theater.
“I was hired not as an air person but I did book work for two years,” she said in a 2005 interview. “I think they used those two years to check on me, and then in 1941, they asked me to do a show about recipes and decided to call me the Neighbor Lady.”
In the 2005 interview, Speece said her career was more of a joy than a job because of those who listened to her show.
“It was one of those lifetime things that was so satisfying and such a pleasure to do,” she said. “I reached out to so many different people and made a lot of personal contacts. I went to different organizations and talked with people throughout the five-state area. It was very satisfying work through all the years.”
Name: Pat Powers
A Poem for Wynn
So long to you Wynn Speece
For you are finally at peace.
Your voice was so bright and merry
As you delighted listeners across the prairie.
For 60 years you provided such keen advice
From home cleaning to recipes for baked rice.
For tasty dishes we knew where to look
It was always in the Neighbor Lady Cook Book!
Neighbor Lady, you were quite the person
One of the best at WNAX radio in Yankton.
From Minot to Cedar Falls-Waterloo
From Scottsbluff to Lake Superior’s Blue.
The Midwest is going to miss you.
With heavy hearts and as we look towards heaven’s big sky
We say Wynn Speece, God Bless You, Thanks and Good Bye.
– Pat Powers
Name: Bob Flittie
City: Fremont, Nebraska
Memories: Working with Wynn, producing her daily shows for 8 years; and being a welcome guest in Harry & Wynn’s home so often. What a down-to-earth broadcasting professional. We could, and did, talk about anything.
City: concordia kansas
Memories: having lived in S.Dak and listening to wnax. my family and myself listened lots and caught lot of the neighbor lady shows. though we never met her felt sort of a kinship there we miss her too.
Name: Ron Raff
City: Sioux Falls, SD
Memories: I was a farm kid from Creighton, NE my Mother used to listen to the Neighbor Lady all the time. I have been attempting to collect a full set of her cookbooks. I have 8 so far, I also have the book on the history of Wnax. Please express my sympathy to Win’s family and the Wnax Family. She was a great Lady with a big heart.
Name: Ron Gelderman
City: Colman, Sd
Memories: I remember growing up on our farm near Ward, SD and Mom having the radio on WNAX and the Neighbor Lady. Fifty years later I still listened to Wynn. Not because of the recipes but because of the memories and the comfort of her voice.
Name: CHARLES L. SEDLACEK
City: OMAHA, NE
Memories: SHE WAS THE FAVORITE OF MY GRANDMOTHER AND MOTHER. I ENJOYED HER PROGRAMS, TOO,THROUGH ALMOST ALL OF MY 76 YEARS – A LIFE WELL-LIVED – THE NEIGHBOR LADY WAS ALWAYS THERE TO VISIT.
Name: John Nauerth III
City: lakefield , mn.
Memories: Growing up the ‘neighbor lady’ was special as she offered a calm time in a stress filled home. I cannot find the words to express my thoughts, simply to say God bless Wynn, thou faithful servant, come home to rest. Blessed be her memory.
Name: Scott P. Allan
City: Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Memories: I was very fortunate to have been an actual neighbor to Your Neighbor Lady. Our family lived right across the street form the Speece family. I can remember when I was 4,5, and 6 years old and going over to the Speece front porch and standing there and looking in their living room window watching Wynn broadcast her radio show. I remember once in awhile she would invite us neighborhood kids in and we would get to say hi over the air on WNAX. Wynn is a Yankton Legend and she will be missed greatly, but I have very found memories of the Speece Family. Thank you WNAX for your insight many years ago to give Wynn Speece her Neighbor Lady Show.
Name: Bob Fitch
City: Hudson, SD
Memories: Grandma listened, Mom listened and all my aunts listened to Wynn every weekday during my growing up years. When we moved to Yankton thirty-three years ago I met Harry at a coffee shop and my wife met Wynn at an exercise place where my wife kept the books. We felt like we knew celebrities but they were as common and friendly as could be. Wynn and Harry were a perfect match. Nobody had bigger more caring hearts then the two of them.
Name: Doug Lund
City: Sioux Falls, SD
Memories: “The Neighbor Lady,” Wynn Speece, never lived within 100 miles of my house in Volga but she showed up every day anyway …on the radio.. and was a constant companion to my mom and thousands of other homemakers and farm wives. “Hello good friends” was her on-air greeting for 64 years as she opened a program filled with helpful household hints, stories about her family, recipes, listener letters and commercials that she would read live. Advertisers would line-up trying to get on her show because products endorsed by “The Neighbor Lady” sold like hotcakes… hotcakes made from “Martha Gooch” flour, of course. She first signed-on the air in 1941 over WNAX radio in Yankton which had one of the most powerful signals in the world reaching into at least five states. During the forties and fifties, The Neighbor Lady’s audience numbered into the hundreds of thousands…mostly women listening as they went about their household chores. The program was such a big hit that the radio station had people whose only job was to open and answer bags and bags of mail which averaged a quarter million letters a year. During an interview for Keloland News years ago, I asked The Neighbor Lady about her amazing popularity. “Back then,” she said, mine would often be the only woman’s voice many of these ladies would hear all day…especially during the winter.” It was that same sweet gentle voice that was so comforting and reassuring to those whose husbands or sons were off fighting in the war. When I was little I just remember her as the nice lady on the radio every morning; a white plastic Philco radio that sat on the kitchen cabinet next to a drawer filled with Neighbor Lady recipes. When Wynn Speece made personal appearances, huge crowds would turn out to see her demonstrate kitchen appliances, prepare a favorite hot dish or dessert or sign a copy of the annual WNAX Neighbor Lady cookbook. But mostly, people just wanted to see her…the woman behind the voice. She was a big star… and even though it wasn’t shining as brightly by the mid 80’s when we did our interview, I was awe-struck. After saying how great it was to meet her, Wynn said she and her husband, Harry, were longtime fans of Keloland and never missed watching Steve and ME on the news. How about that? We’ve had lots of good visits in the years since. I just loved hearing about her lifetime of experiences on the radio. She was an icon to so many and as genuine as the love she had for Harry who passed away a couple years ago. Now we must talk about the Neighbor Lady in the past tense too. Even though she lived until the age of 90, it’s hard for those of us who knew and admired her, personally and professionally, to say… “Goodbye good friend.”
Name: Liz Soladay
City: Fulton SD
Memories: One of the highlights of the Christmas season, for me, was coming home from school, and hearing Wynn’s Christmas show…I think it was called “Happy Holidays,” and it defined the holidays of my childhood as much as church activities did. If WNAX had copies of Wynn’s holiday broadcasts available the way some radio shows are, I’d buy them. Rest in peace, Neighbor Lady.
Name: Sue Kaiser
City: Kadoka, SD
Memories: Sad to hear of the death of Wynn Speece. I am 58 years old and grew up listening to WNAX. We lived east of Pierre and think that was the only radio station we could get. My Mother and Grandmother always listened to her program. I can remember both of them listening closely to everything she said and with pen in hand writing down a recipe as she read it on the air. My Grandmother gave me her collection of “Neighbor Lady” books, which I treasure. I remember spending time when I was little looking at all the pictures in the recipe books – her kids were close to my age. Thanks WNAX and “The Neighbor Lady” for lots of good memories!! (Other memories of WNAX were of Dad and us kids laying on the floor in front of the radio, I believe on Sat night, listening to “Gunsmoke” !!)
Name: Shirley Scriver
City: Two Rivers, WI
Memories: As I was growing up in South Dakota, I remember my mother listening to the Neighbor Lady on the radio. Everything then was made from “scratch” and was so delicious. My mother gave my sister and I Neighbor Lady cookbooks for Christmas presents. I still have the 1953 through 1957 and 1971 (3oth edition) cookbooks. Please pass on my sympathy to her family.
Name: CLARKE SANDERS
City: SALINA, KS
Memories: One of my most lasting memories of my time at WNAX will be working with Wynn Speece and playing tennis with her husband Harry. You will not find finer people than Wynn and Harry. As a broadcaster, I was especially impressed with Wynn’s ability to do a commercial. Anybody whose life was touched by her or Harry was a better person for it.
Name: Evelyn McCarty
City: Lincoln, Nebraska
Memories: Growing up in Northeast Nebr. I remember listening to Wynn Speece and her chatty, friendly manner of presenting her programs. I had the opportunity to meet Wynn a few years ago in Yankton. We had a wonderful conversation and while discussing a book I recenty read she said she would love to read that book. I sent the book to her and in a few weeks she returned it with a note of thanks. Such a gracious lady and how fortunate we were to have her in our homes for so many years. She truly was our neighbor lady.