After signing off as the senior anchor at WGAL on November 24, Kim Lemon left behind a legacy that probably won’t be matched in the decades to come, if ever. Having worked at the same television station for 42 years – in her hometown, no less – is a rarity in a very competitive industry that sees talent come and go.
When it comes to “news,” Lancaster is a small town. News, leaks, gossip – whatever you want to call it – can spread like wildfire. The fact that Kim was able to keep her plans private for months and announce her retirement on her own terms might qualify as her final accomplishment behind the news desk. “I started thinking about it early last year,” she says. “It was time. After 42 years, I had done it and done it well. I had done my best and hopefully made a difference – that’s all anyone can ask for at the end of their career.”
In March 2021, she sat down with WGAL’s news director, Eric Nazarenus, and delivered her news. Then, she went back to work. Mum was the word. “I didn’t tell anyone else,” she says.
Not wanting to make a “production” out of her impending retirement, Kim began to contemplate how she would announce the news to the public. She chose to do so on November 5 via social media and at the end of the 6 p.m. newscast. “I just didn’t want it to drag on and on,” she says of the three-week window she created between announcing her plans and signing off for a final time. Saying that it took the Susquehanna Valley by surprise would be an understatement.
She also made her announcement in style. “I had this image in my mind as to how I’d do it,” she explains. “I love the color turquoise, so I’d wear that in the picture that I’d post to Facebook.”
It just so happens that one of her favorite pieces of clothing is a sparkling turquoise pantsuit. “That’s what I wanted to wear,” she says. Then, she thought of just going for it and staging a full-blown photo shoot with Downtown Lancaster as her backdrop. She turned to Nick Gould, a photographer she has worked with over the years. “Nick really got what I wanted to do,” she says. “He really got into it and suggested we do some shots at The Exchange.” Kim also happened to bring a very special gift with her to the photo shoot – a gold and turquoise Versace bathrobe that her friend and former colleague, Jennifer Gilbert, had given her. “We’re up at The Exchange and the next thing I know, Nick is telling me to put on the bathrobe,” she recounts. “We just had so much fun!”
In the weeks leading up to November 24 – her last night on the air – the station presented montages of Kim’s work, with Matt Barcaro, Susan Shapiro, Lori Burkholder and other colleagues coming up with their own tributes. “The send-off pieces were just beautiful,” she says. Sportscaster Mike Hostetler jokingly lamented at the end of his sportscast that he’ll have to find a new source for NASCAR predictions.
After she signed off, Kim left the building, only to be greeted by such former colleagues as Dick Hoxworth and Jim Sinkovitz, as well as anchors and reporters from WGAL’s various newscasts. “We all went back to my house for a party – I have the most beautiful garage,” she says of having created a space that has allowed her to safely visit with friends during the pandemic.
Prior to the 1970s, television news was dominated by men, both on the local level and at the networks. Yes, there were groundbreakers (the concept of the glass ceiling came into vogue in 1984) such as NBC’s Barbara Walters and Nancy Dickerson, but on the local level, ground still needed to be broken.
Still, Kim had role models and mentors, including her mother, Shirley, who was a second-grade teacher. She also points to James Siglin, who advised the students who made morning announcements at Manheim Township Middle School via closed-circuit television. Kim, who began reading the morning announcements in seventh grade, was one of those students. “He sent me the most beautiful note,” Kim says of the congratulatory message she received from her former adviser upon her retirement.
Kim can probably attribute her trajectory into television news to two other women: Marijane Landis and Betty Friedan. Landis, who was born in Lancaster and performed in local theatre, was recruited by WGAL in 1952 to host the station’s female-oriented programming. She proved to be both a groundbreaker and a star at multitasking: Landis wrote, produced and appeared in commercials, did voice-over work and hosted game, talk, cooking and variety shows. She was one of the station’s original “Weather Girls.” In the ’50s and ’60s, Baby Boomers started their Saturdays by watching Percy Platypus & Friends, which Landis hosted until it went off the air in 1974. She hosted the show’s successor, Sunshine Corners, until 1979. She also took on a new role in 1978: community services manager and personnel director. Landis retired in 1993. Her career at WGAL spanned 41 years.
Kim graduated from Manheim Township High School in 1975. She went on to further her education at Clarion University, where she was initially an education major but later switched to English and theatre arts. “Journalism majors didn’t even exist then,” she says. Upon graduating, she worked in public relations for the Warwick School District.
Still, the lure of a newsroom continued to tempt Kim.
Kim ultimately contacted Marijane Landis and basically asked if she could pick her brain. “We had a wonderful meeting,” Kim recalls. “She was impressed that by going in a public relations direction, I was able to learn a new skill.” Unfortunately, Landis had to tell her no openings existed at the station. “However, as I was leaving, Marijane told me, ‘I will remember you.’”
Landis kept her promise – thanks in part to Betty Friedan and the National Organization for Women (NOW). “WGAL was being sued by NOW,” Kim explains. Beginning in 1970, lawsuits against media outlets – television and radio stations, newspapers and magazines – began to shed light on the the fact that women were being discriminated against in media workplaces. “WGAL had to hire more women and Marijane called me,” Kim says. The callback resulted in an interview with program manager Nelson Sears. The interview process included putting Kim on camera for one-and-one-half minutes and having her talk about herself. “That was a little scary, but I got through it,” she recalls.
Kim joined WGAL in 1979. She launched her television career by doing the Sunday night weather (replacing Marijane) and reporting/anchoring the Early Bird News Tuesday through Friday. “I was working six days a week and making $180,” she shares.
Nine months later, Sears approached her with a new assignment – co-host of PM Magazine, a syndicated magazine-format show that was localized through having co-hosts in each market. “Those were the most magical years of my career,” Kim says of hosting the show with Josh Hooper. “For some reason, everyone thinks I co-anchored with Doug Allen,” she says. “We did a lot of assignments together, but we never co-hosted PM Magazine.” Stories took Kim and Josh all over the world, including Greece, Israel, Turkey, Egypt, Finland, Mexico, Brazil and the United Kingdom, among other destinations.
PM Magazine helped to launch the careers of newspeople and entertainers such as Matt Lauer (Today), Tom Bergeron (Dancing with the Stars), Nancy Glass (CEO of Glass Entertainment Group) and Leeza Gibbons (Entertainment Tonight). Did Kim ever dream of moving to a larger market or even one of the networks? “Oh, sure, you flirt with it at some point, but I was happy where my life and career were taking me,” she says, noting that she was always proud to be associated with WGAL. “WGAL is and has always been a very respected station in the industry,” she says.
However, she had, in fact, been approached by another station in the market to become its weekend anchor. It just so happened that WGAL needed one, as well. “I knew PM Magazine wasn’t going to last forever, so I came up with a proposal,” she explains. “I could continue hosting PM Magazine, which required two or three days of my time, and anchor the weekend news.” The plan met with the station’s approval; Kim stayed with WGAL.
Kim’s personal life was moving in a fulfilling direction, as well. In 1985, she married John MacIver, who owned and operated Oletowne Jewelers in Lancaster. “Marriage changed my priorities,” she says of formulating a new plan that included exiting PM Magazine and the weekend news and moving to weeknights. Once again, an opening paved the way for her to become a weeknight anchor (6 and 11 p.m.). During her tenure, Kim worked with six co-anchors including Dick Hoxworth, Keith Martin, Wayne Herman, Brad Hicks, Ron Martin (their partnership endured the longest) and Danielle Woods. In mid-December, it was announced that morning anchor, Jere Gish, would be replacing Kim at the news desk.
Kim and John became the parents of two daughters. Megan is now attending seminary in Berkeley, California, while Morgan was living in Washington, D.C., until recently. She and her husband, who both can work remotely, purchased a house in Lancaster, so that she can be closer to her parents. Kim is grateful to have her back home, especially in view of the fact that all their lives drastically changed 15 years ago with a medical diagnosis that left them baffled.
John, who was in his mid-50s at the time, was having health issues and was initially diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Kim decided to seek a second opinion and turned to doctors at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia. They diagnosed his condition as Lewy body dementia, which is a progressive neurological disorder that can affect movement, the thinking process, mood, memory and behavior. “I had never heard of it but I learned that it’s often misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s,” Kim notes.
Kim took an extended leave of absence early on in order to be John’s caregiver and advocate. “I was so glad I did that,” she says. Eventually, John’s needs overwhelmed the level of care Kim could provide. He now resides in the skilled-care area of a retirement community.
In her role as an advocate, Kim founded a support group for those who are affected by the disease. While she has been open about the very personal battle she found herself waging, Kim hasn’t allowed it to define who she is. “People are very kind, but it’s a private matter that I try to avoid talking about. I didn’t want it to define me professionally. John’s memory is not compromised and he remains the most elegant man I’ve ever met. But, it’s been a crushing ordeal – unless you have lived it, you cannot grasp what it’s like. It’s been horrendous for all of us – John included. In the end, it comes down to a matter of survival.”
It was because of John that Kim elected to work from home during much of 2020 and early 2021. Like everyone else, she assumed the situation would be short term.
“March turned into April and before I knew it, I had been working from home for a full year,” she says. “Working from home was definitely the most stressful part of my career. In the beginning, I was actually broadcasting from my personal cell phone. Then, the tech department from WGAL came in and set up a studio in my home office that included a monitor and a camera.”
On top of coping with the new reality, Megan arrived home from Greece in spring 2020 and quarantined in Kim’s basement for two weeks. “We couldn’t see John, either, which only added another layer to everything,” Kim remarks.
When I emailed Kim in early December to ask her to participate in a story, I didn’t hear back from her that day. In all honesty, I envisioned her on a tropical island somewhere sipping on a fruity drink and contemplating the future.
That night, about 10:30, an email popped up from her. She apologized for her delayed response, explaining she had spent the day in the hospital undergoing hip replacement surgery. I was shocked! If Kim Lemon, who leads a physically active life through cycling and other activities, needs such a surgical procedure, God help the rest of us mortals! Then it occurred to me that she had taken the time – just hours after surgery – to respond! Who does that? Kim asked me to give her a week and we’d talk. Like clockwork, she called at 9 a.m. the following Wednesday and we set up a phone interview for the next day.
In regards to her need for surgery, Kim figures that years of cycling had finally caught up with her and the pain she was experiencing had to be addressed. “I was doing fine until I wasn’t,” she says.
She was amazed by the speed that hospital staff gets patients up and moving post-surgery. “I was still woozy and they were wanting me to get up, get dressed and get to physical therapy. I’ve had nail appointments take more time!” she exclaims. Morgan stayed with her for two days and then began checking in on her mother several times a day. Kim also credits her tight-knit circle of friends for getting her on the road to recovery. “I’m very fortunate to have such good friends,” she says.
Before her surgery, Kim was able to eliminate something from her bucket list – attend the Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, D.C. “I’ve always wanted to go and this year they were honoring Joni Mitchell. I just love her. My friend and former co-worker, news anchor Mary Saladna from WCVB in Boston, was able to make it happen. I had a wonderful time!”
She’s also become a re-certified “cat lady,” explaining that her backyard has become a magnet for homeless cats. Years ago she was the pet parent of several Maine coon cats but became a dog mom when she adopted her beloved French bulldog, Ramy, who sadly passed away last summer. Of the cats, Kim explains she and Megan began working with the Spay Neuter Assistance Program (snapofpa.org) to get them spayed/neutered, as well as find them forever homes.
As for the future, Kim doesn’t envision herself being a lady of leisure. She wants to be engaged with the world. “There’s so much I can see myself doing,” she says. “I was teaching at Elizabethtown College and really enjoyed doing that. Students today have so many opportunities – the schools have incredible set-ups; [the studios] aren’t quite on the level as WGAL, but from a technological standpoint, they’re pretty amazing. I could see myself somehow nurturing young journalists.” She could also see herself as a public speaker or writing a book. “When it comes down to it, I consider myself to be a writer,” she says.
Travel is also on her agenda. “I will travel eventually,” she shares, noting that Covid is her biggest reason for staying close to home. She thinks back to a pre-Covid trip she and Megan made in celebration of her 60th birthday. “We went on a safari in Africa and swam to the edge of Victoria Falls. It was amazing!” she says.
She would also like to be an advocate for caregivers. “It’s a lonely existence,” she says. “People don’t want to talk about it. In the end, that just might be my legacy.”
Regardless of what the future holds, Kim wants people to be happy for her. “I had a wonderful career,” she stresses. “The feelings of love and respect that I’ve received over the last few months have been overwhelming.” On a personal level, she says she has “experienced great love.”
As she looks back, Kim treasures the fact that she was a hometown girl who reached for her dreams and achieved success both professionally and personally. “I am so grateful to have worked where I grew up,” she says.
It wasn’t until Lancaster County was celebrating its 300th anniversary that she realized how deep her roots go. “I’m 10th generation Lancaster County on both sides of my family,” she reports, explaining that Lemon (her father, Dean, is a retired teacher and Christmas tree grower) evolved from such surnames as Leaman and Lehman, while Pickell (her mother’s maiden name) morphed from Bickel. The reckoning came courtesy of the Lancaster County Mennonite Historical Society (now known as Mennonite Life), which pitched a story idea on tracing Kim’s roots. “Turns out I’m related to 75% of the Amish population. I have a lot of Mennonite relatives, too,” she adds.
It’s probably safe to say that even the Amish, who don’t own televisions, know who Kim Lemon is.
On the Cover
Nick Gould photographed Kim Lemon in Downtown Lancaster ahead of her public announcement that she would be retiring from WGAL in late November 2021. This marks Kim’s fourth Lancaster County Magazine cover, which is a record. Until this month, she was tied with The Belvedere Inn for having the most covers.
Kim’s first cover was in November 1996. She shared a winter-weather-themed cover with WGAL colleagues Susan Shapiro and Mary Saladna (who is now based in Boston), and PennDOT’s Charles Enoch (who, at the time, was on-air as much as WGAL reporters before, during and after winter storms).
Kim’s second cover came in November 2000, when she posed with two furry friends. Kim was always a perennial winner in our Best of Lancaster readers’ survey, having won the “Best News Anchor” category consecutively from 1990 to 2011 and again from 2013 to 2016 (which is the last time the category appeared on the survey).
Her third cover was in February 2009, when she posed with her beloved bicycle that she rode for numerous fundraisers, including benefits sponsored by the National MS Society. One of her most memorable rides took place in 2002. Called the Face of America, the three-day ride took participants from Ground Zero in New York to The Pentagon in Washington, D.C. One of her riding partners was Dr. Mark Burlingame, whose brother, Charles, was the pilot of Flight 77 on September 11. Kim’s appearance on the 2009 cover coincided with her role as the local spokesperson for that year’s American Heart Association Red Dress Campaign.
Kim’s three previous covers were photographed by the late Allan Holm.