Sally Starr, 90, the vivacious blonde TV cowgirl who served as a surrogate parent for the Philadelphia region's baby boomers, died Sunday morning.
Starr died peacefully in a South Jersey nursing home shortly after 6 a.m., according to Michael Yip, a close friend of Starr's. She had been in poor health for years, both from various natural causes as well as from the effects of a 2005 car crash.
Born Aileen Mae Beller in Kansas City on Jan. 25, 1923, Starr arrived in Philadelphia in the late 1940s to host a country-western music program on radio station WJMJ-AM.
According to broadcastpioneers.com, she began "Popeye Theater," her legendary afterschool program, on Oct. 3, 1955, on what was then WFIL-TV, Channel 6 (now 6ABC). For two hours a day, five days a week for more than a decade, Starr, dressed in a signature spangled cowgirl outfit, showed "Popeye" cartoons and Three Stooges shorts and welcomed celebrity guests to her live telecasts. She ultimately became one of the most beloved figures in Philadelphia broadcasting history.
Starr, who lived for more than 20 years in South Jersey, was the widow of former Channel 6 cameraman Mark Gray. She is survived by a sister.