From Left to Right: 2nd Runner Up, Ida White from St. Thomas, VI, 4th Place Winner, Paulette Perry of Fall River, 2011 Queen, Constance Gabriel from Rogers, MN, 3rd Runner Up, Celina Dilbert from Cayman Islands and 1st Runner Up, Shelby Taylor from Jacksonville, NC.
Herald News Staff ReporterFALL RIVER — Connie Gabriel came close to winning the Ms. Senior Sweetheart Pageant of America last year, having to settle for first runner-up.
But on Sunday, the 67-year-old great-grandmother from Minnesota was crowned queen at the 32nd annual pageant.
She was one of 17 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 2011 queen was crowned by last year’s queen, Cheri Ann Schear of Missouri. Schear sang the pageant’s theme song as Gabriel took her victory walk.
Gabriel thanked the huge audience and said she enjoyed working with all the other contestants.
“For the past two years, I got to celebrate my birthday with this wonderful family that I love so dearly,” she said.
First runnerup this year was Shelby Taylor-Parr of North Carolina, followed by Celina Dilbert of the Cayman Islands, Ida White of the Virgin Islands and Paulette Perry of Fall River.
Gabriel is semi-retired after 35 years as a community pharmacist. She continues to enjoy and actively participate with several health care volunteer groups, serving at home and internationally.
Her talent was singing “So Here’s to Life.”
Sixty-four-year-old Perry has been a nurse at St. Anne’s Hospital for more than 40 years.
She volunteers for flu clinics at area elementary schools and participates in local Council on Aging blood pressure clinics.
Her philosophy is “Peace and love begin with a smile.”
She said she is married to her best friend, Frank. She has two sons in law enforcement and is the grandmother of eight.
Pageant founder Len Kaplan, who served as master of ceremonies, entertained the crowd with his joke-cracking, singing old favorites and his personal version of “I Did It My Way.” He also shed 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.
Schear thanked the pageant family, saying her reign as queen was wonderful. She extended congratulations to the new queen.
“The Flaming Glow” award, the pageant’s version of Miss Congeniality, went to Britta Shaw of Texas.