Another crown 68 years later

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It may have taken 68 years, but Brownie Dodge, an Alexandrian that once was crowned Miss Alexandria at George Washington High School, was crowned again in the Northern Virginia Top Senior Model semi-finals at Sunrise Senior Living in Alexandria.

Dodge remembers that day back in 1939, noting this is bigger, she said. After winning the first pageant, she was married shortly after, she remembered. We eloped, she said.

In the Sunrise event held on Saturday, July 28, Dodge sported a colorful red top and sunglasses and walked out to the song, Foxy Lady, by Jimi Hendrix, wooing the audiences. Her daughters Debbie Blackburn and LaRue Chalfant accompanied her throughout the afternoon. She has a zest for life, said Chalfant.

The pageant started with all the fanfare of the bigger pageants, including flowers, food and live music by the Vic Chase Project. Each of the 11 contestants were announced, and then waltzed past the judges to a theme song, and through the lobby for all to see. Both men and women participated. Some danced a little, while others were more serious. Kay Pollard, the assistant activity director at Sunrise, described each contestants outfits, which were supplied by Chicos clothing stores. Willie Wilhelm sported the golfers look like Tiger Woods himself, said Pollard, while Tom Fitzgerald strutted out to George Thorogoods Bad to the Bone. Margaret Shetley, 101, came out to Pretty Woman, by Roy Orbison.

Judging the seniors
The judges looked for style, poise, personality, creativity and runway presentation. Karen Baugh, a social worker at the Alexandria Hospital, was one of the judges. At the hospital, she works with seniors seeking assistance while remaining independent as possible, and looked at the pageant as a fun event. When they asked her to judge, I was flattered, she said. Other judges included Chandra Ewell, Chicos Store manager in Alexandria, and Peter Robinson, an acquaintance who was sitting in for one of the judges that did not make the event.

The contest is a big event at Sunrise, with many residents looking forward to it for weeks beforehand. Its so good for the morale, said Chalfant. Randy Kamenetsky, owner of Home Instead Senior Care, remembered last years winner, Virginia Minnick, who was reserved and not comfortable at Sunrise at first, but after winning the pageant, she really changed her attitude. She won the event and started coming out to everything, Kamenetsky said.

After the judges tabulated everything, they handed the envelope to Brad Minnick, the son of last years winner. Sunrise chose him to announce the winner. Lets cut the suspense and get right to it, he joked.

Shetley was named Miss Congeniality, Harriet Kamin was runner up, and Dodge, the winner, was all smiles, sporting the crown. Now Dodge will go on to the Northern Virginia Top Senior Model finals at Brighten Gardens in Arlington on Aug. 11. At the next pageant, Dodge plans on wearing something snazzy, she said.

Myra Gourley, the director of community relations at Sunrise, sung with the band after the crowns were handed out and everyone got into the party scene. They love to dance and shout, Gourley said.

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