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Palmer enjoyed a busy and successful career in movies and on TV for decades. She received a second career with new generations after 1980, when she played a murderess in the Paramount film “Friday the 13th,” which also starred a young Kevin Bacon and singer Bing Crosby’s son Harry Crosby.
Her fans spanned young teens who connected her to the role of the murdering mother of hockey mask wearing Jason, from the long running “Friday the 13th” film franchise to older generations who recalled her broad beaming smile as a witty and effervescent panelist on the CBS game show “I’ve Got A Secret” in the 1950s.
Palmer, a 1944 graduate of East Chicago Roosevelt High School, spent two decades living in New York City until 2012, when she moved back to Connecticut (where she previously had a residence in the late 1970s) to live near her only child, daughter Melissa Merendino, from her only marriage to Dr. Vincent J. Merendino in 1954 until their divorce in 1971.
Palmer’s last return to Northwest Indiana was in April 2005 to do a charity play performance of “Love Letters” at Munster High School. In December 2013, she was inducted to Northwest Indiana’s South Shore Wall of Legends, but did not attend the ceremony.
“When I agreed to do ‘Friday the 13th,’ I never expected anyone would ever want to see it,” said Palmer, when we chatted in a previous interview.
“You know, I’m really only revealed as the killer in the final 15 minutes of the film.
“The director really only knew me from my role in the 1955 film ‘Mr. Roberts’ with Henry Fonda,” said Palmer, who in 1955 also had a starring role in “Queen Bee” opposite Joan Crawford.
“And they wanted this goody two shoes type to play this surprise ending killer. When I drove up to the real summer camp where the film was being shot in New Jersey and I saw the sign for ‘Camp Crystal Lake,’ I took that as a good luck omen since as a girl, I had spent my summers at at Crystal Lake in Warsaw, Ind.”
Her original ambition was to be a secretary, at the urging of her mother, Marie L. Hrunek, who on Jan. 5, 1925, launched the East Chicago Business College.
Today’s Celebrity Birthdays Monday, June 1, 2015
Actor Richard Erdman (“Community”) is 90. Singer Pat Boone and actor Peter Masterson (“The Exorcist”) are 81. Actor Morgan Freeman is 78. Actor Rene Auberjonois (“Benson,” ”Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”) is 75. Guitarist Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones and actor Jonathan Pryce (“Evita”) are 68. Actor Powers Boothe is 67. Singers Graham Russell of Air Supply and Charlene (“I’ve Been to Paradise . But I’ve Never Been to Me”) are 65. Actress Misty Rowe (“Hee Haw”) and country singer Ronnie Dunn of Brooks and Dunnand actress Diana Canova are all 62. Actress Lisa Hartman Black is 59. Bassist Simon Gallup of The Cure is 55. Actor Mark Curry (“Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper”) is 54. Actress Teri Polo is 46. Model Heidi Klum is 42. Singer Alanis Morissette is 41. Actress Sarah Wayne Callies (“The Walking Dead”) is 38. TV host Damien Fahey (MTV’s “Total Request Live”) is 35. Singer Brandi Carlile is 34. Actress Willow Shields (“The Hunger Games”) is 15.