With the 15th season of America’s Got Talent about to premiere on NBC under the new abnormal circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, It’s also time to memorialize a beloved contestant from years passed who has passed on.
Grandma Lee, who didn’t start her stand-up career until her 60s, but made the finals of AGT season 4 in 2009, died on April 24, 2020, in assisted living in Jacksonville, Fla. Lee was 85. She had continued to perform until November 2019, when she fell in her hotel room after a gig and broke her hip.
Frances Lee Myers was born May 29, 1934, in Oklahoma City, but grew up in Missouri and Kentucky, and got her college degree in 1956 from Oberlin College. She married a marine, Ben Strong, and traveled the world with him. They eventually settled down in Homestead, Fla., and lost their home during the devastating Hurricane Andrew in 1992. After her husband died in 1995, she took a buyout from the phone company where she had worked, and dove into stand-up in Jacksonville.
Her first TV break wasn’t AGT, but the Jenny Jones show in daytime, as a “sassy senior” who didn’t mind getting bleeped.
When AGT reached out to her, Grandma Lee gave them even more than they expected, making it all the way to the finals.
“I’m trying to send a message to people that you’re never too late to follow your dream,” Lee told a TV reporter in 2011.
The family said they planned to hold a service celebrating her life once quarantine restrictions allow such a gathering.
She will be missed.