She was the local girl who made it good. Growing up, I knew the name Lee Phillip, mainly through her family’s flower shop and that she lived not too far from us in Riverside.
It has been reported that she graduated from Riverside-Brookfield High School, but she only attended two years at the school before attending Monticello Finishing School.
She continued her education graduating from Northwestern University. Aside from working at Phillip’s Flowers she also worked at Bramson’s, a high end women’s store in Oak Park.
It was through the flower shop that I first saw her on WBBM-TV, as she did small segments on floral arranging. It was fun to see a TV star who was a neighbor, although we did not know each other. I was and still am a friend of her brother, Russ, who still lives in Riverside.
Her popularity grew on TV and her 10 minute segments expanded with “Miss Lee” doling out homemaker news. She expanded her TV work with interviews and specials. She became known as a first-class journalist, doing it all with the style and class for which she had been known. We watched her because of her quality of work and as if we knew her.
While at the TV studio in Chicago, she met a young writer named Bill Bell and in 1954 the couple were married at the Riverside Presbyterian Church, ever the hometown girl.
The two began collaborating on writing soap operas, creating an award-winning empire with serials like “The Young and the Restless” and “The Bold and the Beautiful.” Their careers took them to California where they remained and raised three children.
Russ and his wife often visited with Lee and her family, I’m sure keeping her in touch with her former hometown. It was nice to hear from her brother how she was, made me feel as if I almost knew her.
The house on Southcote where the Phillip family lived will still be referred to as the Phillips’ house, although they had long moved from the home.
I can only believe Lee Phillip had fond memories of her hometown, but I can also believe that many of the stories on her “soaps” did not come from local happenings in Riverside. Remember, the soaps are pure fiction.
So another Riverside memory — Lee Phillip with her blond hair and bright smile, who made it big on Chicago TV and on to California, who just happened to be a neighbor. And yes, the Phillip’s floral business is still in the family and going strong.