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Radio queen dies

WJEJ Phone Party fixture shared her helpful hints with listeners

WJEJ Phone Party fixture shared her helpful hints with listeners

November 13, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN - Juanita May Queen, who offered advice to local radio listeners on topics like caring for flowers and cleaning house, died last week.

Queen was a "walking encyclopedia" who helped people without wanting anything in return, radio host Lou Scally said Sunday.

Queen, 103, died Friday at Beverly Healthcare Center in Hagerstown.

Before suffering health problems in recent years, Queen was a fixture on WJEJ's Phone Party program, Scally said.

"Of all the years that we had her on the radio, indeed, a lot of people thought that she was an employee of the radio station," Scally said.

But she wasn't. She offered advice just because she cared, Scally said.

"I think the one thing that I admired most about her was she just had this incredible pleasantness about her," Scally said.

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Known as Mrs. Queen, the Hagerstown woman who was raised by former slaves earned money in her younger years by sewing, baking and selling flowers.

"I've worked so hard and sewed so much," she told The Herald-Mail when she turned 99. "Between washing and ironing and carrying laundry up from the laundry house, I did everything."

She was active at Second Christian Church on North Avenue, and she said in an interview that she would have become a preacher if a bout with typhoid fever had not kept her from going to college.

"I made phone calls for 34 years to radio programs, helping out people. Whatever they needed answered, I'd answer. People miss me and I miss them," Queen told The Herald-Mail in 2000 after she moved into a nursing home.

At a recent party, the Washington County Commission on Aging Inc./Area Agency on Aging honored the county's centenarians. The agency was aware of 20 people, including Queen, who had reached or nearly reached the age of 100.

Scally said he remembers hearing Queen's distinctive voice carrying over the radio in the 1960s when he was a boy. For decades, she shared old-fashioned, common-sense wisdom, he said.

He said he took over as the show's host in 1977.

"We used to refer to her as the 'vinegar lady.' She used to say that vinegar is one of the few things that you need to have in a household to clean things, and in reality, it's true," Scally said.

People have told Scally that Queen's advice worked for them, and when she celebrated birthdays, Phone Party listeners showered her with cards, Scally said.

According to The Herald-Mail, Queen was married twice. After her first husband of 30 years died in 1961, Queen married Harry Queen. The World War I veteran first proposed to her in 1920, but the woman's grandparents thought at the age of 17 she was too young.

Harry Queen died in 1968. They were married five years.

She never had children, and as she got older, she took breaks from calling Phone Party so she could attend funerals of extended family and friends, Scally said.

Over the airwaves, Queen had plenty of admirers.

"People just loved her," Scally said. "That was pretty much her life ... helping people."

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