This past Thursday, Oct. 25, marked Roselle Coury Fortier’s 100th birthday. Known as one of the top radio personalities in New England in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, the well-known icon at Lewiston’s WCOU radio could do it all.

The energetic, outgoing entertainer and broadcaster not only deejayed her own programs, wrote and delivered commercial copy, announced the news with authority and even operated the control room, but she would sing her favorite songs, such as “There’s Gonna Be a Great Day,” “Don’t Worry About Me” and “Without A Song,” in a distinctive voice that some identified as alto and others as contralto.

It was a time when it was rare for a woman to be in radio at all. But Coury, who first studied at the Radio School of Technique in New York City and hit the Big Apple’s nightclub scene, arrived at Lewiston radio station WCOU in 1939 and came to be one of the most experienced female radio personalities in the nation.

She was a woman far ahead of her time, who successfully combined an extraordinary vocation with a fulfilling family life.

Her daughter, Nancy Fortier Waters of Saco, described her mother as an amazing role model. “It was unusual back then for a woman to do all that she did,” she said.

Along with Roselle’s husband, Richard (Dick) Fortier, Maine’s “first lady broadcaster” raised three children in the family’s Lewiston home on Haley Street for over half her career — the vivacious brunette dashing off to the WCOU studio on Lisbon Street five days a week.


Roselle’s children, now in their 60s and 70s, remember their mother not only as a force to be reckoned with, but as a generous, loving nurturer with a great sense of humor. She came by those traits naturally from growing up in a large Lebanese family.

Roselle was born in Fort Kent to Amos and Elizabeth Wobby Coury. When the stock market crashed, the family moved to Berlin, New Hampshire, so they could be closer to other family members and start over.

Roselle had eight brothers and sisters; more than a few of them were quite musically inclined and there were always reasons to celebrate life with their music.

Son Rick Fortier of Lewiston recalled, “My mother was quite a lady — so outgoing and fun loving. Her approach to others typified the legendary Lebanese hospitality.” Family gatherings with Roselle’s big extended family are remembered by her children as lively affairs with savory traditional foods, merriment . . . and, of course, singing.

Throughout Roselle’s high school years, especially, she was often complimented on both her singing voice and speaking voice. Her family said she was a “hot ticket” who loved to perform and spread happiness.

With her joie de vivre, her musical family influences and her notable voice, Roselle’s interest in radio was understandable. After high school, she studied radio in New York, but she had already met her husband-to-be in high school in Berlin.


The couple later married and, according to Nancy, her dad got a job with the Veterans Affairs Administration and took a position at a VA office in Lewiston after WWII. When the Lewiston office was closed, he went to work at Togus until he retired.


According to her children, Roselle’s biggest dream was to raise a family, but she also loved radio. So after the couple moved to Lewiston, she broke into local radio by buying her own air time, selling spot announcements within her shows and arranging for additional musical talent. In due time, she became so successful in selling her talents that WCOU radio station owner Faust Couture hired her full-time rather than compete with her. Years later, she was quoted as saying, “I wouldn’t want to be without the radio. It’s a part of me.”

Roselle’s affectionate nature and zest for life brightly colored her radio persona. “She loved performing on the radio. She had a great voice and was very outgoing and charming,” said Rick.

The shows she wrote, produced or hosted, along with numerous commercial spots she created and delivered, were sparkly and positive. Not one to stick with women’s programming of the day, Roselle’s programs included segments called “Strolling About Town,” “Peck’s Party Room of Songs & Chatter,” a give-away show called “The Lucky Dollar Program,” as well as her nightly music show where she introduced new songs and took requests, a popular midday program and “Morning Toast — Come and Get It.” She also served as a newscaster.

Affiliated with WCOU for three decades, Roselle was also featured on WLAM from 1971 to 1973 on the holiday program “Christmas Shopping Pad,” where music, humor, homemaking advice and shopping tips were combined in a “seasonal potpourri.”


Never at a loss for something to do, Roselle was very involved in the community as well, serving as commentator for many events and directing plays where she was often the star.

“She had a devoted following and knew so many folks in town,” said Rick. Popular as she was, however, her children remember their mom as always being humble, grateful and extremely supportive and giving.

Son Steve Fortier of Georgia praised his mother for always being his encourager. “She supported us with the greatest enthusiasm. She came up with great slogans when I ran for class office in my sophomore and senior years of high school and she was always at my football games at Yale. I could pick her out of a crowd of 80,000 fans,” he said with a chuckle. “She wasn’t hard to hear!”


Steve added: “She did a wonderful job of taking care of the family, yet still got off to work every morning.”

The a.m. routine included Roselle preparing breakfast for her husband so he could get to his job as supervisory adjudicator at Togus Veterans Administration Center. She then got the children up and cooked them breakfast before going off to work.


“She’d rush out the door, then a few minutes later we’d hear her on the air announcing her morning show, ‘Morning Toast — Come and Get It!'” said Steve. The show featured recipes, birthday greetings, songs and household hints.

Nancy said her mother was often late to the studio. They could always tell because the theme song for her “Morning Toast” show, “Alley Cat,” sometimes played longer than usual, tipping the kids off that their mom was behind schedule once again.

And even though they were very proud of her, Rick said, “Sometimes she embarrassed us a little when she would break out into song at family gatherings.” It seems that Roselle could be a bit of a ham, and at times just couldn’t help herself— she had to sing.

Steve remembers going to WCOU on Lisbon Street to watch his mother in action. The studio was furnished with both a grand piano and an organ. The children were even allowed in the control room where their mom worked her magic.

Roselle’s children also remember gathering around the living room console to listen to their mom perform live while their dad recorded her show. When Roselle returned home the recordings were played back so she could find ways to improve.

As Roselle’s radio shows transitioned in the late ’60s, her keen interest in staying current led her to often consult her teenagers regarding what was popular. Roselle’s listeners could count on a blend of her personal favorites, such as songs by Ella Fitzgerald, the Mills Brothers and Frank Sinatra, as well as Beatles tunes and other rock ‘n’ roll bands of that era. “She never turned down an opportunity to keep up with the times,” Steve said.


A thrilling moment for Nancy was the day she and her gal pal Kathy Butler were each allowed to introduce a song on the air. Nancy had the pleasure of announcing that “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” was about to be played.

Rick, Steve and Nancy all recalled the time in 1963 when their mother broke her leg when she fell down the stairs at home, the Electrolux tumbling down with her. Without missing a beat, her pals at WCOU arranged for her to broadcast from her own dining room. The show must go on, broken bones and all.


Fellow radio personality Connie Cote of Auburn, who just recently retired from radio at the age of 90, remembers her friend and former WCOU co-worker fondly. “Roselle used to come visit me in my first apartment when I was just 21. She was 10 years older than me, but we became such good friends. She was always the bell of the ball — so funny and full of energy, fun to be with, and so sincere and generous.”

Connie and her husband, Bert, who was one of Roselle’s long-time piano accompanists, were among a group that included organist Marion Payne Louisfell, WCOU owner Couture and his wife, sportscaster John Libby, Harold Alberghini, Roselle’s sister Connie Coury (who worked for WCOU in the ’50s) and all their spouses, who spent a great deal of time socializing together and giving each other support through thick and thin.

In the “Old Radio Times” July/Aug. 2013 edition, Walter J. Beaupre wrote in “Confessions of a Maine Radio Announcer” (originally published in “Radiogram,” July 1991), “Roselle Coury was a first-class talent in every respect: a terrific speaking voice and a fine pop singer. There were few women, local or network, on the airwaves in the ’40s and ’50s any better than Roselle Coury.”


Couture seemed to be in full agreement with Beaupre’s opinion. A quote attributed to him stated, “Roselle could run the station all by herself because she has written, announced, sung, serviced accounts, interviewed and taken on administrative roles.”

Maine’s first lady broadcaster was a dynamo to be reckoned with. One of her show’s theme songs, Ella Fitzgerald’s “I Want to be Happy,” epitomized her upbeat personality. After singing this favorite tune, she was recorded as saying, “Yes, indeedy, it’s easy to get happy when you think of the person next to ya.”

Sadly, Roselle left her family and her fans far too soon. She died at home from an apparent heart attack in the spring of 1975 when she was only 56 years old. The popular maven of radio received a posthumous award from the Maine Association of Broadcasters shortly after her untimely death. The award “signifies our warm regards for the devotion and cooperation earned by Maine’s First Lady Broadcaster with respect for dedicated service of the highest order.”

Roselle’s beautifully strong singing voice and uplifting chatter were preserved on magnetic tapes and then copied to a CD dubbed “Roselle Coury: Songs & Chatter.” Son Rick, who has a copy of the CD, said it is his goal to put the collection online so it can be shared with the world.

Writer Karen Schneider has been a regular contributor to the Lewiston Sun Journal for over 20 years. You can contact her at with your comments.

Roselle Coury Fortier loved her WCOU listeners in Lewiston-Auburn and they depended upon and loved her. She graced the local airwaves for three decades. (Photo courtesy of Richard Fortier)


Roselle Coury Fortier’s joy for her work came through in her radio voice whether she was performing a song, giving advice or reciting favorite recipes. (Photo courtesy of Richard Fortier)

A sample of Roselle’s scripts used for her radio show. (Photo courtesy of Richard Fortier)

A sample of Roselle’s scripts used for her radio show. (Photo courtesy of Richard Fortier)

Roselle’s theme song: “I Want to be Happy”

I want to be happy

But I won’t be happy

Till I make you happy, too.


Life’s really worth living

When we are mirth-giving

Why can’t I give some to you?

When skies are gray

And you say you are blue

I’ll send the sun smiling through.


I want to be happy

But I won’t be happy

Till I make you happy, too.

And she cooked too!

Roselle Coury’s son Rick Fortier is the keeper of Roselle’s recipes and, according to his siblings, is the family cook. Roselle’s daughter Nancy Fortier Waters said her mother was never one to use a written recipe. A bit of research was done to obtain instructions that are as close as possible to Roselle’s cabbage rolls.

Roselle’s favorite cabbage rolls

1 head cabbage


3/4 pounds hamburger

1 cup rice

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon dried mint


1 tablespoon butter

1 small can tomato paste

1/2-3/4 cup water

Separate cabbage leaves and parboil for a few minutes in boiling water. Allow to cool. Combine hamburger, rice, butter and seasonings in a bowl. Tightly wrap 1-2 tablespoons hamburger mixture in each cabbage leaf to form rolls. Place in large saucepan or Dutch oven, using any extra cabbage to line bottom of pan. Pack rolls in tightly. Spoon tomato paste over rolls then add enough water to cover. A pinch of spices may be added to the water. Bring to a boil then simmer for 45 minutes. Makes 4-6 servings.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: