It’s been a long time since Bette Williams would have even considered competing in a pageant.
The 88-year-old Holt County resident was one of 10 participants in the Ms. Nursing Home Pageant at Stoney Creek Hotel & Convention Center on Friday. This is the 30th year for the event, which is put on by the Missouri Health Care Association.
Williams, who took home the crown, said she was overwhelmed with the love and support of the staff at Oregon Care Center, where she is a resident.
“It’s kind of hard to get old,” she said. “I’ll get right honest … we don’t get to do things we used to do. But you know, to have something like this for us, it’s just great. And we all appreciate it. And all those other ladies did, too.”
Williams was born in St. Joseph but lived most of her life in Oregon. She has been involved in the American Legion Auxiliary for more than 70 years and has received countless awards for her volunteerism.
“We never do enough for those men,” she said.
She was recognized in 2011 as a St. Joseph News-Press’ 20 Who Count recipient.
Williams entertained the crowd during her pageant interview by telling stories of her love for sports, especially baseball, and a time when she had a coach who looked like a fish.
All of the participants were ushered to the stage, some with walkers, wheelchairs or assistance. Each was asked a series of questions based on their entry biography.
Frances Williams, who was first runner-up in the contest, shared memories of her love for baking pies. Williams is a resident at Gower Convalescent Center in Gower, Missouri.
The 93-year-old Dearborn, Missouri, woman lost her husband of 29 years in 1976. Left to raise the couple’s young daughter, Williams took a job doing what she loved — cooking. Between North Platte High School and Kids Kastle Daycare, she fed hundreds of children, many calling her “grandma.”
Sue Jackson received second runner-up. The 77-year-old had the crowd laughing with her admission of cheating when playing cards and a rumor she may be banned from doing so in Las Vegas.
Jackson, who is a resident at Tiffany Heights in Mound City, Missouri, said she would advise parents to not always let children win at games.
“Because you win and lose at life,” she said. “It’s good to teach kids that.”
The pageant is meaningful to those who participate, said Tammy Yocum, nursing home administrator at Tiffany Heights.
“It’s an important event for the residents,” she said. “It’s to bring out their beauty at any age. It’s just an important event and it means so much to them.”
Williams will go on to compete in the state competition in Branson in August. She said she is looking forward to a vacation.