Jefferson City resident Dalphene Trout won a regional Ms. Nursing Home Pageant early Thursday afternoon.
"Oh, my Lord," Trout said when her name was announced.
Trout, a resident of Oak Tree Villas — a Stonebridge Community in Jefferson City — was one of 12 women competing at the Capital West Christian Church Event Center. The event, sponsored by the Missouri Health Care Association, gives residents of the association's facilities opportunities to socialize, experience new environments and share their life stories, said Rose Carroll, the local pageant coordinator.
The state association is split into seven districts, said Sarah Schlemeier, a public relations director with the organization.
"Homes have their own ways of nominating contestants," she said.
Whether or not they won Thursday, they were "queens for the day," Schlemeier said.
Competitors in the pageant represented a district that covers Audrain, Boone, Callaway, Camden, Cole, Cooper, Gasconade, Howard, Maries, Miller, Moniteau, Morgan, Osage, Phelps and Pulaski counties.
The contestants answered a series of questions while on stage in front of about 100 family members, friends and supporters.
Three judges each gave contestants scores of 1-10 in eight categories: personality for her age, spryness for her age, ability to show happiness in her life in a nursing home, life activities (before living in the nursing home), attitude toward life and her fellow man, her smile, and her bio or life story.
And boy, do they have life stories, said Michelle Walters, director of education and events for the association.
"About 30 years ago, we started trying to get our residents involved in extracurricular activities," Walters said. "They have some great stories to tell."
Patricia Thomas, a resident of Lakeside Meadows — a Stonebridge Community in Osage Beach — said she had gone to work right after graduating from high school. To her surprise, she was named "Miss Abernathy" on the tugboat Abernathy in 1951 during the Korean War. Her photo had been included in a letter, and one of the sailors on the boat used it as a pinup.
The sailors wanted her to come take a tour of the boat, but her mother said they would bake some cookies and send them to the sailors instead.
"My dad kept saying, 'You've got to go. You've got to go. You're going to make those boys so happy,'" Thomas said. "My mother said, 'Happy, yeah.'"
She eventually attended reunions of the sailors, who said they appreciated the cookies.
"They needed that sunshine," Thomas said.
She said she'd met many, many wonderful people along the way.
So has Rose Kempker, who lives at Jefferson City Manor — JMS Senior Living. Kempker said she married at 20 and had seven children in 10 years while working on the farm. She just kept working, she said.
Asked if she had a baby on her hip while she was working, Kempker said no.
"They ran around or sat in a stroller," she said. "I never had one on my hip."
Each of the women received a question from a fishbowl. Kempker's was "What are your thoughts on having a woman as a president?"
"I'm not going to offer any opinion on that," she said to laughter. "As a wife, we're always the president of our family."
Trout said she met her husband of 66 years on a blind date. The date was supposed to be a joke played against her future husband. He had been sent a picture of a homely girl. But it was love at first sight for him. She met him when she was 16.
As a military wife, Trout traveled to all 50 states.
Her sense of humor, she said, was sometimes quick-witted and edgy. She had picked up bad habits from all those years around soldiers — who may not have been good examples for her. She said she's looking forward to the next 20 years.
A tear rolled down Trout's cheek as she began her onstage interview. She said she'd been having a good day until she got onstage.
"I'm a crybaby," she explained.