Merri Dee dead at 85 – Chicago broadcaster who survived 1971 kidnapping & shooting outside studio passes away
MERRI Dee, a legendary Chicago broadcaster has died at the age of 85. Her death was confirmed by her family.
Dee worked on-air for WGN-TV in the 1970s and 80s, later becoming the station’s director of community relations.
She made headlines for her 1971 kidnapping after an assailant forced her to drive to a remote location along with psychic Alan Sandler, a guest on her show at the time.
The perpetrator shot both Dee and Sandler in the back of the head, killing Sandler and nearly killing Dee.
“I smile, because it’s only because of my faith that I believe that I’m supposed to be here,” Dee said on Windy City Live in 2013, talking about the horrific ordeal.
“I’m supposed to be here. The gentleman who was with me did not live, and here I am.”
A man named Samuel Drew was convicted for the attack. Dee’s near-death experience inspired her to become an advocate for victims of gun violence.
“One person really can make a difference. I was angry when he [Drew] received a 120-year sentence. after 12 years he was getting out of jail,” said Dee.
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“I thought, well I’m just not going to stand for this.”
Dee lobbied state and city politicians, ultimately helping with the passage of Illinois’s first Victims Bill of Rights law, which was been used as a model for other states.
According to her family, Dee passed away peacefully in her sleep.
“With great sadness, our family announces the loss of our beloved matriarch, the brightest light in our lives, Merri Dee, who died peacefully in her sleep at home,” read a statement from Dee’s family.
“As you can imagine our family is simply heartbroken and ask for privacy at this time.”
WGN-TV described Dee as a “one-of-a-kind legend.”
“From WGN staff announcer to hosting parade telecasts, telethons and even the Illinois Lottery drawings, she was synonymous with WGN-TV.
“She was groundbreaking in the broadcasting field and an inspiration to several generations of young women.
“Among her greatest legacies as Director of Community Relations, she spoke at thousands of events and helped raise over $30 million dollars for WGN-TV Children's Charities, benefitting various organizations throughout Chicagoland. Merri Dee was a pioneer who will be greatly missed.”
Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot also released a statement on Dee’s passing: “Mrs. Dee was a homegrown, broadcasting legend whose time as an anchor and radio and talk show host made her a beloved, local celebrity.
“In addition to her television and radio work, she also made a huge impact on communities across our city and state through a number of philanthropic pursuits that reflected her passion for protecting vulnerable individuals such as children in need of adoptive homes.
“Mrs. Dee has truly made a positive and indelible mark on our city and inspired countless others to follow in her footsteps. We offer our deepest condolences to her loved ones during this difficult time.”
Dee is survived by her husband, Nicolas Fulop, and their two children, a daughter and a son.
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