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Pageant winner, 61, decided to 'Go for it'

By Saundra Amrhein
Published May 11, 2007


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There are no reports of salacious photos or tear-filled apologies for boozing by contestants.

Unlike their younger counterparts, the participants in the Ms. Florida Senior America Pageant have other priorities.

Some are cancer survivors. Most are grandmothers. Many were professionals, including at least one book author.

And of the 14 women who participated in the contest emphasizing the "age of elegance, " one winner was local.

At this year's Ms. Senior Florida contest in mid-April at Kings Point, Laurie Dimsdale won Ms. Sun City Center and was first runner-up for Ms. Senior Florida. A Palm Beach County woman claimed top prize.

"It was exciting to get to know so many women, and very talented [ones], " Dimsdale, 61, said on a recent morning in her Sun City Center home.

There wasn't a bathing suit contest, though everyone asks her that, she said.

Dimsdale, who started playing piano at age 5 and sang in professional church trios most of her life, wore a gold satin flapper dress and sang Louis Armstrong's On the Sunny Side of the Street.

The other women tap danced, played the harp, performed monologues or sang operatic pieces.

For her "philosophy of life" statement, Dimsdale told the judges she believes people make choices every day that shape their lives, that she strives to be a peacemaker and looks for the good in others without judgment.

"I put God first, and in doing that, others receive my unconditional love, " she told them.

She chose a long, dark green satin dress for the evening gown contest.

Her 91-year-old mother gave her a rhinestone necklace to wear.

The two trade e-mails every day. Her mother still plays the organ.

"If I can look like her in 30 years, " Dimsdale began, holding a picture of her mother. "She's such a deep thinker. I always tell her she's my mentor."

Her parents, both musicians, influenced her own love of singing, she said.

She had entered talent contests while growing up in Maine but never a beauty pageant. She was too busy as a wife and mother of two girls and then, later in life, caring for an ailing husband.

After he passed away, she later married her former choir director at a local church. They keep busy singing for adult communities and clubs throughout the region as a duo called Perfect Harmony. They also formed a separate music company called Jubilee Music Ministry for churches.

In the last year, residents at the fitness center told Dimsdale she should compete for Ms. Senior Florida, open to women 60 and older.

Then the local organizer called her and asked her if she was interested.

"It sounds like it could be fun, " she remembered thinking.

Her daughters, now 41 and 42 and still living in New England, told her: "Go for it, Mom."

Dimsdale said she's waiting to hear what her duties will be as Ms. Sun City Center and the state runner-up. If she's allowed, she plans to run again next year for the official crown.

She likes the message that the contest sends about women in her stage of life, that they're not just grandmas at home watching television.

"It's good for seniors and young people alike to know there is vitality and good things going on, and all the talent, in the senior community, " she said.

Saundra Amrhein can be reached at 661-2441 or amrhein@sptimes.com.

[Last modified May 10, 2007, 07:48:12]


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