Peggy Lee’s granddaughter visits Bismarck to see the late singer’s portrait

Published: Jun. 17, 2023 at 9:11 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - The granddaughter of a famous singer and actress who was born in North Dakota was in Bismarck on Saturday to see something of her grandmother that she has never seen in person, while also sharing stories of her grandmother and her ties to the state.

At the State Capitol Building, Holly Foster Wells is looking at a portrait in the Rough Rider Hall of Fame. It’s her grandmother singer/songwriter and actress Peggy Lee — a native of North Dakota who received the Rough Rider Award in 1975.

“Getting the Rough Rider Award was such the highlight of her life in her home state. So, to come here and see it for the first time today with my son and my husband was so moving,” said Holly Foster Wells, granddaughter of Peggy Lee.

Holly and her family have been traveling around the Peace Garden State for the past couple of days to visit different cities that were important in her grandmother’s life and career. Holly’s mission is to keep Peggy Lee’s memory alive and especially highlight the connection her grandmother has to North Dakota. There have been many surprises on this trip.

“It’s thrilling to me to see how many people remember her here. I actually met people that were at her concert in 1950 in Valley City. Even if I haven’t met people who have met her, they have relatives that remember her,” said Wells.

Wells says even though her grandmother went to California for her career, she never stopped thinking about North Dakota and she would often talk about it.

“She remembered the names of her high school friends and her school teachers. She had a dark chapter of her life here too, she had a difficult childhood. But the people of North Dakota were so good to her,” said Wells.

Perhaps the best part about this trip to Bismarck is that Wells was able to bring her youngest son along with her and he was able to see what North Dakota meant to his great-grandmother.

“It’s so exciting. My kids, of course, I raised them to know about their great-grandmother and what she did as a musician. Now they are learning about her roots and where she came from. I think it makes them even appreciate what she accomplished that much more,” said Wells.

As Wells reflects one final time at the portrait, she thinks about her grandmother’s legacy.

“It’s music. She was just so passionate about music, but also she was a resilient survivor. She’s someone who was a dreamer, she had a dream and she made her dream come true, of course with the help of a lot of people,” said Wells.

And that’s all there is for Wells and her family as they depart Bismarck.

If you would like to learn more about Peggy Lee, click here.