Elgin woman named Ms. Senior Services
By Janelle Walker For The Courier-News July 25, 2012 6:52PM
Winner Dee Connors impresses the judges in her sunflower costume during the Ms Senior Services Woman of the Year Pageant hosted by Senior Services Associates, Inc. in Elgin on Wednesday July 25, 2012. | Katherine Peters~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 27, 2012 11:07AM
ELGIN — Due to a spinal tumor and surgery to remove it 15 years ago, Dee Connors hasn’t been able to feel her feet.
That didn’t stop the 71-year-old Elgin woman from dancing on clouds Wednesday, however, after she was named “Ms. Senior Services Woman of the Year” at the organization’s first-ever pageant.
The event was the brainchild of Minnie Vasquez, activities director at the senior center, explained board member and emcee Steven Thoren. About 180 people — mostly seniors — were on hand to watch 10 area senior women compete for the prize.
Events like the pageant, along with the holiday parties and other regular events at the center “are to enhance a seniors quality of life,” Thoren said. “Plus, it makes these women feel very special. They get to be on stage for themselves, their families, and in front of all of their peers.”
There are a lot of beautiful senior women and a lot of things they can give to the community, said Betty Schoenholtz, director of Senior Service, Inc. “Older women are often overlooked by the general population,” Schoenholtz said. Events like the pageant shows the world how much energy and vitality older women have, she added.
Each contestant was sponsored by a local senior care or social services agency, who also helped the women prepare for the event. Conners worked with Paz Montero of IJ Home Care, who designed Connor’s massive “sunflowers” costumer for the “floral wear” competition.
Her costume so massive, however, that she got a ride from her hairdresser this time. Connors wore a sunflower head piece that towered above her, and carried a bouquet of sunflowers, too.
In typical Illinois fashion, she also left some of those flowers with the panel of four celebrity judges tasked with determining Ms. Senior Services.
Barbara Kolaski, a Senior Services volunteer, has judged with the Miss America organization in the past. She joined Elgin Mayor David Kaptain, Elgin Township Supervisor Annette Miller and Chief of Police Jeff Swoboda as a judge.
“It is so wonderful to see their enthusiasm,” Kolaski said. “They have poise and they have such a joy for life.”
It is seeking and continuing their joy for life that brought many of the women to Senior Services.
Connors said she began coming to the Greater Elgin Senior Center for the four years ago, after her husband had passed away.
Because of the surgery that left her with dozens of titanium screws and other hardware in her spine, Connors takes two Pace buses to get to the center. And often, she is riding the bus in one custom or another for the center’s monthly senior events.
Because of the metal in her spine, Connors’ friends call her the “Bionic Woman.” It has stopped her from being able to drive, but not from traveling or enjoying what Senior Services has to offer, Connors said.
“I do get searched and felt up a lot,” by TSA when she flies, Connors laughed.
The other contestants included: Carol Albright, Blanca Cobos, Dora Funes, Kathy Kemp, Mary Klement, Lucille Matejka, Ruan Meilan, Barb Moen and Trini Rodriguez.