Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Three ladies from the State of New Jersey hold the national title of MS SENIOR AMERICA. Recently, this reporter had the pleasure of interviewing Mrs. Laverne Stokes, MS SENIOR AMERICA 1985, and the following is her story in question and answer format:
Q. How did you hear about Senior America?
A. In 1983, I joined an exercise group at the Dover Senior Center in Toms River. The director told me about SA and suggested that I enter the pageant. At that time, there was a local and a State pageant to compete in, and you had to win them both before competing in the national.
Q. How many titles do you hold then?
A. 3. I hold the title of: MS SR OCEAN COUNTY 1983, MS NEW JERSEY SENIOR AMERICA 1984, and MS SENIOR AMERICA 1985.
Q. That's very impressive. What was your talent?
A. Tap dancing then, and still is today.
Q. Where were those early pageants held?
A. The MS SENIOR OCEAN COUNTY pageant was held at Ocean County College, and the state and national pageants were held at Resorts in Atlantic City.
Q. How do you think the SA pageants of today differ from your time?
A. In 1985, besides winning a crown, banner, trophy, and flowers, I also was given a long, red velvet cape. Today, the red velvet cape has been eliminated. Also, the ladies who compete today seem more professional in the talent category, younger, and more attractive.
Q. What was special about your reign?
A. A reporter from the Associated Press interviewed me, and published my story in major newspapers nationwide. One day, I received a phone call from Mrs. Barnard who lived in Georgia. She and her husband read about me, and were very impressed over my accomplishment. They invited me and my husband to visit them in Savannah for a week long, all expenses paid vacation. When we arrived at the Shawnee Inn Hotel, my name and title were lit up in the hotel's marquee. My room was adorned with flowers, candy, fresh fruit, confections and champagne.
During the week, the Barnards took us on a tour of the southern plantations, doll factory, Jekyll and Catalina Islands, and to meet the mayor of Savannah. They were a kind and generous couple and I will never forget them. There was no Cameo Club then, but I received invitations from Toms River politicians to perform and speak on issues of interest to senior citizens. Of course, I enjoyed participating in the many parades. Lastly, I had the pleasure of crowning Jan Dickenson, MS NJSA 1986, who went on to winning the title of MS SENIOR AMERICA 1987!
Q. Today NJSA does have a Cameo Club. How do you feel about the "sisterhood"?
A. It's a great way for me to continue to make a contribution to society. The Cameo Showcases allow me to continue to share my God-given talents, and to be socially active.
Q. What did you think about this year's 2008 SA pageant?
A. It was wonderful...so professionally done. I am so excited and proud of our own Jo Ann Gordon who made the top 10. I thought the new queen, from Tennessee was very beautiful, and her talent presentation, "A Church Rap" was funny and entertaining.
Thank you, Laverne for sharing your story. Your warmth and enthusiasm for Senior America was so apparent. Your NJ Cameo Club sisters, and NJ Senior America are proud of you and both are grateful for such a loyal member.