By John Moss
Herald News Staff Reporter
Fall River —
Cheri Ann Schear of Missouri, a former symphony orchestra soloist who toured with comedian George Gobel, won the Ms. Senior Sweetheart Pageant of America on Sunday.
The 73-year-old was one of 15 contestants who sang, danced, did skits and provided great entertainment for a very appreciative audience at the B.M.C. Durfee High School auditorium.
The newly crowned queen took her victory walk to the tune of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.”
Connie Gabriel of Minnesota was first runner-up, followed by Lynnette Schlager of Nevada, Paulette Perry of Fall River and Suzi Athanas of Virginia.
Schear was a soloist with several symphony orchestras and is a member of the Missouri Cameo Club.
She toured with Gobel on his comedy concert tour of the Midwest, singing Broadway hits across the United States, Puerto Rico and Aruba.
Schear performs at nursing and senior citizen homes, and gives concerts in the St. Louis area. Her talent was singing “It Is One Kiss.”
Sixty-three-year-old Perry’s talent was singing “Getting To Know You.”
She is in her 40th year of work at St. Anne’s Hospital, starting in the emergency room, then working in the pediatric unit. She said her career has kept her “firmly grounded in life’s triumphs and tragedies.”
Divorced for 22 years, she raised her sons of whom she is very proud. She has eight grandchildren and said an added blessing was meeting her husband Frank.
She said his family is very important in her life, as well as her hospital and church families.
Pageant founder Len Kaplan, who served as master of ceremonies, entertained the crowd, cracking jokes, singing old favorites and shedding some tears as some former winners reunited.
The pageant began in 1978 as a Fall River event and later became a Massachusetts pageant before going international in 1995.
Toya Andrew of the Virgin Islands, the outgoing Ms. Senior Sweetheart of America, was unable to attend the pageant after having to fly home last week for a family emergency. Kaplan said that while she was speaking to her husband, who was at home, he fell and broke a hip.
So Kaplan called her from the stage and held up the phone as the audience sang “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” to her.
Andrew thanked the pageant family, saying her reign as queen was a “great experience.” She said she and all of last year’s contestants were treated like royalty by the city of Fall River. She extended congratulations to the new queen.
Before announcing the winners, Kaplan danced briefly with all the contestants to “Can I Have This Dance?,” sung by Wayne Miranda.
“The Flaming Glow” award, the pageant’s version of Miss Congeniality, went to Terista Acesor of Minnesota.