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Ms. Senior New Jersey Wins National Crown

April 3, 1986

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) _ A 65-year-old woman named one of the most photogenic WACs of World War II was crowned Ms. Senior America, defeating contestants from 14 other states.

Jeannette ″Jan″ Dickinson, who lives in a retirement community in Vincentown, N.J., sang a medley of ″When You’re Young At Heart″ and ″Happy Talk″ to win the competition in this resort noted for its competition involving younger beauty queens.

Women ranging in age from 60 to 78 competed in the pageant, which emphasizes ″that true beauty is a matter of insight as well of eyesight,″ said Maureen Donovan, the pageant’s national director.

The contest, held at Resorts Internatinal Casino Hotel, includes competition in the categories of talent, evening gown and ″inner beauty,″ in which the women deliver short talks on their philosophy of life.

The contestants also were interviewed by a panel of judges prior to the on- stage, two-hour finals before an audience of about 1,600 people.

″I’m very happy. I still don’t believe it,″ said Mrs. Dickinson, mother of two and grandmother of four who’s been married 40 years to her husband, Charles.

First runner-up was Ms. Senior Florida Mary DeSapio of Tamarac; second runner-up was Ms. Senior New York Ethel Bennett of Amityville; third runner-up was Ms. Senior Nevada Dorothy Guralnik of Las Vegas; and fourth runner-up was Ms. Senior Maryland Marjorie Setzer of Capitol Heights.

In the talent competition, contestants played the violin, strummed a guitar, sang Broadway show tunes, danced and performed aerobic exercises. Many explicitly made the point that they aren’t too old for anything.

Ms. Ohio Phyllis Moran of Rocky River scuttled onto the stage bent over and wrapped in a blanket. On her backside, she wore a sign that read, ″Too Old?″

Then she dropped the blanket, and dressed in a white and black tiger- striped leotard, the grandmother of 17 who delivers morning newspapers danced to the tune ″If My Friends Could See Me Now″ from the musical ″Sweet Charity.″

Ms. California Elda Barry of Huntington Harbor, who ran a modeling agency for 25 years, drew hoots and cheers when she appeared dressed in a belly- dancer’s outfit and played finger cymbals in a performance titled, ″Salome and the Seven Veils.″

Mrs. Dickinson said she performed with a dance band and was named the ″most photogenic″ WAC in a 12-state region while serving in the U.S. Army Air Force division during the war.

She married after the war and, after spending some years bringing up her childen, returned to work as a secretary until her retirement 12 years ago.

A member of several singing groups and a drama club, Mrs. Dickinson said she recently started her own business in which she writes individual lullabies for children.

After signing up with a modeling agency, she got jobs as an extra in a beer commercial and the movie, ″Wise Guys.″

Ms. Donovan, who started the pageant about 10 years ago by running small contests in New Jersey senior citizen centers, said Mrs. Dickinson ″will do all the things Miss America does.″

She said the newly crowned symbol of what the pageant calls the ″age of elegance″ has already been booked for appearances in Florida, Nevada and Pennsylvania.

The pageant is run by Senior America Inc., a non-profit social services organization based in New Jersey.

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