Miss Jill Corey
The Belle of Avonmore
Click any image below for large view.
The earliest picture we have of Norma Jean, cradled in the arms of her mother Clara, who was taken from the loving Speranza family when Norma Jean was only four years old.  Many years later Jill would compose a beautifully poignant tribute in song to that mother of whom by then she had only scant memories. 
Even as a toddler Norma Jean was already displaying signs of the inherent beauty and that infectious smile that were to become two of her trade marks when she mounted the world stage as Jill Corey just a few years later.  
Beloved Papa, Bernard Speranza, with whom Norma Jean became very close, particularly after the death of Jill's mother.  Later, as Jill's career blossomed during the 50's, she would send her father on a vacation to Italy, where he would meet family and friends he had not seen since emigrating to the United States many years before.   
Click the image and you can find the young Norma Jean Speranza among her classmates in Miss Hazel Repine's first graders during the 1941-42 academic year. 
Attending a birthday party in Avonmore, Jill is already the center of attention. 
The smiling Jill is age eleven in this picture. 
This is a school picture taken when Norma Jean was in sixth or seventh grade.  We are indebted to her classmate Helen Diebler Whitehouse, who presently resides in Buckley, Washington for supplying us with this photo of the young Norma Jean.  
Norma Jean as a freshman or sophomore at Bell-Avon High School. 
Norma Jean with close friend Anice Ziemianski in 1948.  
By age fourteen Norma Jean was already singing professionally for five dollars a night with the Johnny Murphy Orchestra, a local area dance band.  
Young Norma Jean is escorted by proud papa Bernard Speranza. 
Norma Jean with Joe Alsippi, Carole Rumbaugh and John Ziemainski dressed for the Bell-Avon High School Freshman Prom, May 1950.  
Norma Jean and classmates attending another prom at Bell-Avon High School in 1952 or 1953.  
Jill's high school senior pictures 
Norma Jean graduated ninth in her class at Bell-Avon High School on May 27, 1953.  Click the image and you can see her (first in the front row) with the rest of her Class of 1953. 
Norma Jean with fellow graduates Margaret Beatty and Carole Rumbaugh, May 27, 1953.  
Click here or on the image at left to see additional pictures of Jill and family from the LIFE magazine photo session by Gordon Parks on September 28, 1953.
The Jill Storey story:  Following Jill's auditions for Mitch Miller, Dave Garroway and Arthur Godfrey, the good news of her success was immediately wired home to her family in Avonmore.  Included in the message was the new stage name for Norma Jean chosen by Dave Garroway for his young singer.  Unfortunately, somewhere along the line of communication, perhaps in the telegraph office, the name Jill Corey became Jill Storey, and so it was that Jill Storey was 
feted by family and friends upon her return to Avonmore.  Click here or on the image at left to see all the remaining photographs taken by Gordon Parks in Avonmore and on the set of the Dave Garroway Show that never made it into the LIFE magazine article of November 9, 1953. 
The recently christened Jill Corey receives accolades in the city of Pittsburgh and her nearby hometown of  Avonmore shortly after her debut on national television with Dave Garroway in October of 1953.  Here she is with her beloved Papa, sister Alice and Alice's husband.   Click here or on the image at left to see much more of the festivities welcoming home their Norma Jean Speranza, from then on to be known as Jill Corey. 
Jill joins Papa Speranza and her great aunt and uncle in this formal picture setting in nearby Vandergrift, Pennsylvania on a visit home a year or so after the beginning of her television career.  Jill recalls that the dress she is wearing in the picture is one she purchased while she was dating Frank Sinatra. 
Jill returned to Avonmore in September of 1970 to attend their 7th annual Harvest Jubilee.  This tribute appeared in the commemorative booklet for the event that year.  
Jill appeared at Avonmore's 11th Annual Harvest Jubilee in September 1974.   Click here or on the image at left to see three pictures of Jill on stage during the event. 
This brief history of Jill's rise to stardom appeared in the commemorative booklet prepared for the 12th Annual Harvest Jubilee in September 1975.   Also appearing in the commemorative booklet for the 12th Annual Harvest Jubilee in 1975 was this update on Jill's career after she came out of retirement following the untimely death of her husband in 1969.
On another visit to her hometown Jill reminisces here with brothers Dominic (left) and Earl about the beginnings of her national career in television as documented in that LIFE magazine cover story in 1953.  
In 1978, Jill attended the 25th year reunion of her Bell-Avon High School class of 1953, and as might be expected, she was prevailed upon to sing during the festivities.   Also in attendance that year were members of the Bell-Avon class of 1958, including another celebrity with roots in tiny Avonmore, Pennsylvania.  Click here or on the image at left to learn more.
  During 1993, the borough of Avonmore celebrated their centennial.  Jill had agreed to appear at a fund raising event on March 13th in support of the festivities to be held the following summer, but a late winter blizzard completely shut down the community that weekend.  Finally, on May 22nd, Jill reunited with her very first boss, Johnny Murphy and his eleven-piece orchestra at Charlie's Danceland for a memorable evening of reminiscing and song.  Click the image to read the full story as it appeared in the local Country Caller. 
The Avonmore Borough Centennial celebrations were held on Saturday, August 14, 1993, with Jill shown here in the reviewing stand.  Click the image for a larger view of the photo and caption as they appeared in the Country Caller of August 25, 1993. 
On August 1, 2003, the Bell-Avon High School Class of 1953 held their 50th-year reunion in nearby Apollo, Pennsylvania.  TThe program for the graduation ceremonies in 1953 shows Norma Jean was class vice president and noted for her dancing prowess.   Click here or on the image at left to see more of the program. 
Jill with former classmates Josie Bernabee, Margaret Stauffer, Bob Conto, Carole Rumbaugh and Charles Bottegal at their 50-year reunion, August 1, 2003  
Jill's picture, along with a brief biographical sketch, appeared in a souvenir booklet distributed to those attending the 50th-year reunion in 2003.  
We wish to acknowledge the work of Helen Diebler Whitehouse, Virginia Grimm Brink and other members of the Bell-Avon 50th Reunion Committee in preparing the reunion souvenir booklet from which many of  these scans were taken.  We also want to express our sincere appreciation for the many photographs displayed here provided to us by Jill's close friend Carole Rumbaugh Bottegal.  Photos of Avonmore's centennial celebrations, as they appeared in the Avonmore Country Caller, were provided by Helen Diebler Whitehouse.
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