TL remembered, revered at poignant 'Celebration of Life'
Memories and tears of joy flowed freely at a tribute to pioneer radio and entertainment personality Terry Lee.
“It certainly was an emotional evening,” said Lee's wife, Carol Trunzo of Bellville, Ohio, of “A Celebration of the Life of Legendary DJ Terry Lee,” which drew more than 300 people to the Boston Spectrum near McKeesport. “I'm sure Terry would have been pleased with the way things turned out.”
Terrance Lee Albert Trunzo, who was known professionally as Terry Lee, 70, died July 30, 2013, in his Bellville home after a courageous battle with lung cancer. The New Eagle native was a 1960 graduate of Monongahela High School whose broadcasting career spanned more than 50 years,.
The long-awaited tribute was held in response to an overwhelming number of requests for such an event by Lee's countless and faithful followers.
“Words cannot express how grateful we are to those loyal supporters of our husband and father,” Carol Trunzo said on behalf of herself and the couple's children, Adam and Paulina.
“The event was a huge success and everyone had a wonderful time, not only dancing to the best music played by Terry's friend and partner, Joe Parknavy, but also reminiscing with old and new friends about the fond memories of your youth. They and the thousands of others around the world are the reason we continue the Magic Communications Network (MCN) Internet radio station (www.tlsoundco.com) to share 24/7 all the great music that Terry played when we were young, the TL sounds that have transcended time.”
Speaking was as a minimum at the tribute affair, with only Carol Trunzo and Parknavy addressing the audience.
Parknavy served as disc jockey for the event and provided myriad songs made popular by Lee on his radio shows and at his successful dances including the signature TL “Music for Young Lovers” ballads. Parknavy had worked with Lee since his return to the area in 2010 and created Lee's Internet radio station.
“We didn't feel that a speaking program was necessary,” Carol Trunzo said. “The idea was to honor Terry and rekindle so many fond memories. There were a lot of stories shared about how he impacted the lives of so many people with his time and talents, a lot of reminiscing with smiles and tears of joy. Joe did a wonderful job with the music, which spoke for itself.”
Those in attendance came from the Mon Valley and western Pennsylvania as well as Florida, Virginia, Maryland, New York and Arizona.
Among those traveling from out of state was Jim Seemiller of Phoenix, former sales manager at WIXZ, one of the prime radio stations where Lee launched his successful career more than 50 years ago.
“Jim was the one who gave Terry the opportunity, in the 1980s, to go to Phoenix, where he helped create the KOOL Gold format and thus was able to syndicate his Music for Young Lovers show across the country,” Carol Trunzo said.
She also extended gratitude to family and friends who helped with the event. They included members of Carol Trunzo's family; Charlie Heidenfelder, a retired McKeesport police officer who served as Lee's bodyguard early in his career, and his wife Marge; Lee's brother, Alfred D. (Buddy) Trunzo Jr. and his wife Sandy, and Lee's children.
A display of archive pictures and other memorabilia reflecting Lee's career also highlighted the celebration, and a special video created for the event was shown. The video is posted on YouTube as well as Lee's Facebook page.
“The audience gave Terry a standing ovation after watching the video; it was very moving,” Trunzo said. “And as Terry would say, ‘from the bottom of our hearts,' I thanked them for giving him one last standing ovation. If there was one moment that really touched our hearts, I think that was it.”
Prizes also were awarded at the tribute event including a 16-by-20 framed photograph of Lee and some classic vinyl long-play albums from his personal collection.
Lee began his broadcasting career while still a student at Monongahela High School in the late 1950s. He had popular radio programs at such stations as WESA in Charleroi, WARO in Canonsburg and WMCK and WIXZ in McKeesport and also hosted successful television dance shows on WPGH and WPXI in Pittsburgh. His record hops for teenagers in the 1960s and '70s were among the biggest in western Pennsylvania and included such venues as the Nite Train on the Glassport-Elizabeth Road and Redd's Beach (now Pine Cove Beach Club) in Fallowfield Township.
“He hosted dances in the North Hills, the South Hills and the Greensburg and McKeesport areas and elsewhere in the Pittsburgh region and all were very successful,” Carol Trunzo said.
Lee's career also included work as an on-air personality and station owner at radio stations in Florida and Arizona, host of a nationally syndicated show and success as a concert promoter and record producer.
He launched a reunion tour in early 2010 at The Palisades in McKeesport that drew more than 600 people. Subsequent dances also were successful throughout the area including those at the Stockdale Volunteer Fire Department's community center, the New Eagle Volunteer Fire Department's social hall and the Monessen Elks. He also played class reunions and trade shows in recent years.
Always an innovator, Lee took his talents and music to a worldwide audience on May 17, 2011, when he introduced the TL Magic Communications Network, an Internet Streaming process featuring his website, www.tlsoundco.com. The MCN program was drawing some 135,000 hits a month just before Lee's death and continues to attract listeners from around the world today.
“Terry worked so long and hard on bringing back the memories of our youth to all of us who grew up in western Pennsylvania and all over the world,” Carol Trunzo said. “We will continue to follow his dream and we will be forever grateful for the love, prayers and support so many people have shown to Terry and our family.”
She said those in attendance at the tribute requested that more dances be held to perpetuate those feelings.
“All of the songs that were played were part of what they remember from such wonderful times in their lives,” she said. “We hope that we will be able to do it again sometime. It was an unforgettable night in honor of an unforgettable man.”
Ron Paglia is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.