Dawn Anita Plumlee Named 2017 Winner
story and photos by Traci Chapman
The Ms. Oklahoma Senior America Pageant isn’t just about beauty or talent, but a celebration of women who have lived a live full of love and meaning, who exemplify all that seniors can be and all they can offer – and the women who this year competed for the crown showed there are no limits for those who are willing to step beyond their daily confines.
“Life is a gift – open your heart and your mind to all life has to offer,” Dawn Anita Plumlee said.
Plumlee received another gift during the July 29 pageant, as the Velma, OK country singer and songwriter was named Ms. Oklahoma Senior America for 2017.
“I am so honored, I’m so happy and I look at my fellow contestants and that makes me feel even more special, because they are such wonderful women,” Plumlee said after the event. “They are all queens to me.”
Plumlee was one of nine contestants who competed this year for the honor, someone who is not new to the pageant – she was named first runner up in both 2012 and 2013. Flipping through the photos of past Oklahoma events, it was clear she was not alone.
“This event is something that brings out the best in everyone who takes part in it,” Plumlee said. “It’s an experience none of us ever forget and it really can be a life-changer, not only for the one who walks away with that crown – that’s the reason why so many of us stay active in the organization.”
Ms. Oklahoma Senior America 2017 – Dawn Anita Plumlee
Dawn Anita Plumlee said she has “just always been a singer,” someone who not only draws on her country roots but also celebrates them. That was on show during Plumlee’s talent entry, her rendition of “Love Sick Blues.”
Plumlee life has always centered around music – after her family, she said. After turning down an RCA record contract when her children were small, she continued her work in the music industry on a smaller scale until they were grown; she has had three charted country records and has won several songwriting and performance awards, including Oklahoma Opry’s Female Vocalist and Entertainer of the Year. The new queen also wrote “Gift of Life,” a song aimed at promoting organ donation.
Another of Plumlee’s passions is horses, and she has won several shows, as well as embarking on a horseback journey from Oklahoma to Nashville with her husband of 59 years, Jerry.
First Runner-Up – Susannah “Sam” Koebrick
Susannah “Sam” Koebrick was the first female masonry instructor to work in the Oklahoma Career Tech System, instrumental in both designing and promoting the Oklahoma State & Education Employees’ Insurance Program.
A Bethany resident, Koebrick performs in Oklahoma Seniors’ Cabaret and El Reno Community Theater, as well as with her husband, Richard, in a variety of venues across the state.
“Keep an active mind, an active body, smile, have a sense of humor and treat everyone as you wish to be treated,” Koebrick said.
Second Runner-Up – Kathryn Gordon
Kathryn Gordon has had a varied career – as a typesetter, legal secretary, teacher, business owner and more. But, at age 62, Gordon decided to make a change, graduating from cosmetology school and now working as a hairstylist and nail technician.
Gordon, who graduated from University of Central Oklahoma and University of Oklahoma, was also a gymnast in the 1950s and 1960s as a member of the state’s only gymnastics team, Oklahoma Twisters. She won Junior Olympic Tumbling state and national honors, was a member of the 1966 Pan American Gymnastic Team and a 1968 Olympic gymnast. Gordon, who donates time helping children involved in gymnastics, showed her skills during her tap dancing talent entry, which included a cartwheel and handstand.
“Every day is an adventure,” Gordon said. “Every day I get up and put on my medals – humility, forgiveness, joy, faith and trust – and go out into the world, looking for the best in everyone I meet.”
Third Runner-Up – Carla Joy
Carla Joy is also an entertainer, something she started at age three when her parents put her onstage during a movie house intermission to sing. Performing this year at the Oklahoma Senior Follies, Joy also sings for fundraisers and at nursing homes and helped Las Vegas’ Harrah’s Casino begin a trio of karaoke shows.
Joy worked for 38 years in real estate, beauty and fashion and continues her interest in those endeavors, always trying to encourage others, she said.
“Get up, get dressed, show up and never give up,” Joy said.
Marilynn Blackmom said that in a sense her life began at 60 – she went back to college, becoming certified in workforce training and development and working as an adjunct instructor at Eastfield College, located in Mesquite, Texas.
After battling low self-esteem for many years, Blackmon works to help others, teaching classes and obtaining her certification as a master coach in self-esteem elevation for adults and children. Her journey conquering self-esteem issues also led Blackmon to found her own business, “Fly Without Baggage.”
“Soaring, falling, daring to soar again anyway to soar and soar again,” she said.
Boonie Mason’s life changed in 1980 with a Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis – a situation she used to help others as she became peer counselor and Co-Chairman for an Oklahoma City MS support group. In 2004, Mason was awarded MS Society’s chapter President’s Award for Volunteer of the Year. She said those with MS and other similar diseases should never give up, showing her determination by performing a tap dancing routine during the pageant’s talent portion, despite walking with a cane.
Mason attended Oklahoma State University and worked as Yukon Chamber of Commerce manager, First National Bank public relations officer and an Oklahoma City doctor’s office manager.
“Remember how short life is – and for my MS friends, I want to let them know that life is not over,” Mason said.
Barbara McMullin is the mother of five grown children, two of them deaf. That led McMullin to move her family to Oklahoma City so the two – Pam and Jeff – could attend OU Medical Center’s John Key Speech and Hearing Center.
McMullin worked and traveled overseas for many years and enjoys volunteer work and genealogy.
“I challenge myself today and tomorrow is my reward,” she said.
Born into a family of 11 children, Sharon Moore said faith and family have remained her focus throughout her life. At 69, she retired from a 31-year career at Legal Shield, and Moore said she decided to enter the pageant to find a new lease on life after the recent death of her husband.
Moore helped raise eight children, and now has 15 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren. She plays piano, sings and dances and enjoys writing poetry and journaling.
“Never stop learning – give your compassion and grace,” Moore said.
At 69, Gayle Orf took up the ukulele, a skill she exhibited during her talent performance of her own composition, “Lola La Spud.” That spirit of never slowing down helped land Orf a recent contract to do print modeling with a national agency; she teaches healthy living and entertains patients at a local cancer hospital and at senior venues.
Orf became the guardian and surrogate mother – at 60 – to a nine-year-old girl living in a children’s home after the death of her mother. Today, that daughter is a self-supporting college student.
“Life is to be enjoyed,” Orf said.
Ms. Senior America was founded in 1971 by Al Mott, who first started the contest in a New Jersey nursing home. At the time, a few contestants took part; the non-profit foundation now gathers hundreds of seniors annually to take part in pageants across the country, as well as the national pageant, held each October.
Before the day of the pageant, judges conduct interviews with each contestant. The event features talent and evening gown components, as well as the chance to share a 30-second “Philosophy of Life” with the audience.
“This is simply a celebration of beauty and accomplishment, as with any beauty pageant – but it’s a way to show that life is only beginning at 60,” Ms. Senior Oklahoma Foundation Administrator Ladell Maxwell said. “These ladies really do embody our philosophy of grace.”