Myrtle Young, a grandmotherly potato chip inspector who rocketed to fame with her collection of odd-shaped potato chips that resembled animals and famous people, died Saturday in Fort Wayne.
Young’s job was to look for flawed potato chips coming off the line at the Seyfert’s potato chip plant in Fort Wayne. A news story about her peculiar collection of chips brought international attention in the late 1980s and earned her the name the Potato Chip Lady.
Born in 1924, she appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and on David Letterman’s show, and even traveled to England, Japan, China and Thailand as well as all around America, carrying her chip collection for the world to see.
In 1987, while appearing on Carson’s show, she appeared to almost have a heart attack when, as she was looking the other way, Carson started taking bites of potato chips. Thinking he was eating her collection, she gasped and grabbed her chest in shock – until Carson produced a bowl of fresh potato chips from behind his desk.
Young later became part of an advertising campaign for Seyfert’s and at one point was named to a trade delegation from Fort Wayne that toured the Far East.
After her retirement, Young continued to serve as a tour guide at the potato chip factory and showed off her collection of chips resembling Bob Hope, Rodney Dangerfield, animals and other curiosities until the plant closed in 2000.
She is survived by a daughter, Marilyn Young Wiles; two granddaughters; a stepgrandson; a sister, Gladys Spencer of Dayton; a brother, Martin Klug Jr. of Ossian; and several nieces and nephews.
Services will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at Joy Fellowship Church, 109 Moeller Road, New Haven. Visitation will be from 3 to 8 p.m. today at the church. Burial will be in Covington Memorial Gardens. Memorials may be given to the Fort Wayne Pet Food Pantry.