Former Senior Pageant Queens Reminisce about Reign

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They’ll be singing, dancing, twirling, rhyming and struttin’ their stuff. Not the kids, but mature women from across the District who will be competing in the Ms. Senior DC Pageant later this month.

The annual pageant, organizers say and past participants say, helps to dispel myths about aging in the community. 

“One of the reasons I got into the pageant was because my 16-year-old granddaughter told me I was too old to do anything,” said Daisy Savage, 72. To prove her granddaughter wrong Savage competed three times in the pageant; wrote and performed a skit, “I Will Never Grow Old;” won on her third attempt and was crowned Ms. Senior DC 2002. “It was the greatest feelings to hear other seniors from around the country greet me by saying they will never grow old either.”

This year, nine contestants will get their chance to belie the belief that beauty dies with age. The women will be judged on talent, evening gown, poise, self-confidence, personality, philosophy of life and stage presence. And the winner—ideally an elegant, talented and service-oriented woman age 60 or older—will represent her peers in the Ms. Senior America Pageant.

At one of the rehearsals, several former pageant queens were present to watch, encourage and give tips to the new contestants. They spoke of the rewarding experiences of serving as pageant queen.

Lucille H. Watson, 84, Ms. Senior DC 2007, won with a jazz dance routine. “It’s fun watching the new crop of senior women compete. I encourage more senior women to participate,” she said.

Doris Thomas, 86, is the oldest living crowned queen. She served as Senior DC 1992. Taking a break from playing her guitar, Thomas, a cancer survivor, has attended every D.C. competition since her reign and has served as a judge in the national pageant.

“We just want seniors to get involved; move around do something with your life – be active. Don’t let anything stop you regardless of the obstacle; never quit,” said Thomas, also an author of two books on senior life.

Elaine S. Terry, 80, Ms. Senior DC 1998, advocated for caregivers to the elderly while serving as queen. “You can’t imagine how I felt when the Office on Aging implemented its caregiver service for seniors,” Terry said.

Ellen O. Van Edwards, 74, Ms. Senior DC 2003, appeared in movies and testified before the mayor and city council about services and benefits for seniors. A professional clown, she is the only talent from D.C. to win an award in the national pageant.

Ann Thomas, 72, Ms. Senior DC 2006, said her hardest competition was making the transition from a school principal to serving as pageant queen. She likes to exercise and encourages all upcoming seniors to eat the right foods and take care of their health.

“I like to see more politicians and government officials focus more attention to the plight of seniors,” said R.C. Turner, 65, Ms. Senior DC 2008. “There is very little that seniors can get involved in. We need to get them out more.”

Sandra Bears, 67, Ms. Senior DC 2005, worked for the DC Department of Parks and Recreation for 35 years. Her winning theme, “Bridging the Gap of Seniors and Children,” has continued long after her reign. “Somehow the government must come up with a process to make it easier for seniors to volunteer in schools and places where there are children,” said Bears. “Instead of making us go four or five places to be cleared, have a booth to process us at senior events. We want to serve. Stop making it difficult.”

All contestants are members of the DC Chapter of the Senior America Cameo Club, an ongoing organization of the Ms. Senior DC Pageant. The members provide volunteer cameo showcase performances for nursing homes, veterans’ and children's hospitals, other community and charitable organizations.

The pageant is presented by the DC Senior America Cameo Club, Family Matters of Greater Washington and the DC Office on Aging. It will be held 2 p.m., June 12 at the UDC Main Auditorium, Building 46, 4200 Connecticut Ave., NW. A donation is required.