Pageant gives seniors chance to compete, have fun

LAWRENCEVILLE - Frances Harell said she always wanted a chance to be in the limelight and the 91-year-old from Athens finally got her chance Friday when she was crowned Ms. Life Care in the nursing home's eighth annual pageant.

Harell was one of six contestants escorted by members of the North Gwinnett High School ROTC under a saber arch into a silver-star decorated room of more than 100 friends and family to compete for the crown.

"When they told me the ROTC were going to be escorts I said 'Get me a good looking one' ... and they did," Harell said.

Jane Cooper, Mildred Curtis, Archie Bea Hudson, Evelyn Maddox and Harrell answered questions about their hobbies, favorite memory and proudest moment as a panel of six judges evaluated their answers.

Ms. Life Care 2006, Frances Spruce, passed on her crown and title to Harrell and Evelyn Maddox was named first runner-up.

"This is my fourth pageant and I was first runner-up before," said Maddox. "I plan to run again next year."

Director of activities and main coordinator of the pageant Sherry Forester said the pageant has been a crowd-pleaser for the past eight years.

"I love a party and this is my favorite one to plan," Forester said.

Bob Garber, entertainer and author, was the pageant's master of ceremonies, representatives from Mary Kay provided the makeup for the contestants and students from the Art Institute of Atlanta's Culinary Program made refreshments to feed all who attended, including a five-tiered white wedding cake valued at $2,000.

Forester said every nursing home in the state has the choice to hold its own pageant with winners getting the chance to go Atlanta to compete for the title of Ms. Georgia Nursing Home.

Harrell said she was thrilled to be named Ms. Life Care 2007 - her entry into the pageant based on the urging of fellow residents.

"I love to be in things like this," she said. "I wanted to be a movie star when I was younger, but I never made it."

Although she said she never thought she would win, Harrell said the opportunity to meet new friends is the reason she agreed to participate.

"There were five other wonderful women and there are many to congratulate," she said after her win.

Harrell's son Bill attended the pageant, taking pictures and congratulating his mother.

"We've waited 90 years for you to win a beauty contest," he said.

A judge of the pageant and member of the Lawrenceville City Council Dr. Judy Johnson said she and the other judges discussed their thoughts before determining the winner.

"We all talked about it collectively and we thought Ms. Harrell had great answers and could do well at state," she said.

The Ms. Georgia Nursing Home pageant will take place in May in Atlanta.