Elaine Willingham Crowned 2016 Ms. Senior Cullman County

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Amy Leonard

HANCEVILLE – The 2016 Ms. Senior Cullman County Pageant was held on Saturday, Feb. 13 at Wallace State’s Betty Leeth Haynes Theater. Ms. Elaine Willingham of Cullman was crowned the winner. First Alternate was Ms. Jacqueline Schendel of Cullman, who also won Ms. Congeniality, a coveted award voted on by her fellow contestants.  Ms. Judy Moon, a published poet from Vinemont, was awarded Second Alternate.

The weather outside might have been chilly, but the contestants warmed things up in the theater with their talent, beauty and words of wisdom during the festivities. Mr. Curtis Mize, emcee of the day, kept the crowd entertained between presentations, which included Talent, Philosophy of Life and Evening Wear/Poise. All eight contestants far exceeded the crowd’s expectations in each of the categories which, as attested to by Hanceville Mayor Kenneth Nail, made the judges’ work extremely difficult.

As an instrumental version of the classic “What a Wonderful World” played fittingly in the background, the ladies shared their thoughts during the Philosophy of Life competition. Speaking on the importance of education, family and friendships, they communicated an insight that is only found after impactful life experiences.  “Accept yourself gratefully. Value yourself joyfully. Trust yourself completely. Express yourself radiantly and, above all, empower yourself prayerfully,” shared contestant Nancy Roberson.

With her hair pinned back throughout the competition, Willingham exuded confidence and timeless beauty during the Evening Wear competition. For her talent portion, she performed an elegant and stylish contemporary ballet. Yet, there is far more to the new Ms. Senior Cullman County. A leader in the community who finds fulfillment volunteering at nursing homes, Willingham founded the Cullman Ballet Society in 1995 and is a member of the Cullman County Republican Women, Cullman Arts Council and Alabama Dance Council. She is a married mother of three and grandmother of four.

When asked what Willingham should expect in her reigning year, Ms. Vicki Rhodes Jones (Pendergrass), 2015 Ms. Senior Cullman County, answered immediately, “A lot of fun! It’s fun to meet a lot of wonderful people. It’s just a fun thing to meet the seniors here in Cullman County and be a part of the functions that go on. It’s just a fun time.”

Willingham will represent the Cullman County area in the 2016 Ms. Senior Alabama pageant scheduled for July 23, 2016.

The Ms. Senior Cullman County Pageant is an annual event sponsored by the Cullman County Commission on Aging. The COA has several senior centers throughout the county. There are daily activities, and the centers provide lunch on weekdays to everyone in attendance. Meals can also be delivered to homebound seniors. Visit http://www.cullmancoa.com/ to learn more, or call 256-734-1241.