Lee Senior Queen has not let multiple sclerosis stop her
By MARIA CODER
Juggling between the roses and the sash while bowing her head to take the crown and balancing with her cane, Maria Policastro was both happy and overwhelmed Monday, as she accepted her title of Lee Senior Queen.
“I’m numb,” she said, “I didn’t come into this with the thought that I was going to win,” said the 59-year-old Cape Coral resident. “I’m going to honor this crown wherever I go.”
But those who know her best, didn’t expect to see the pageant end any other way.
“When she wants something, she goes and she gets it,” said her mother, Jennie Perillo.
Her husband, though collected, kept popping up, camera in hand, on stage after the pageant had ended. “She worked hard to get this. I’m glad she won,” Michael Policastro said.
Maria Policastro, who has multiple sclerosis, drew a thunderous applause from her peers when she confessed during a question-and-answer session that she refused to accept a doctor’s prognosis that she would never walk again from the chronic, often disabling disease of the central nervous system.
Evelyn Pilla, 75, Cape Coral, was named Lee Senior Princess for the second time in a row. “It’s an honor really because it shows that there are things in life that you can be appreciated for. I feel rewarded,” she said.
JoAnn Charpentier, 61, North Fort Myers, won Miss Congeniality. Charpentier was also Miss Congeniality in 1998 — the only award decided on by fellow contestants, not the judges. “I feel very happy about it,” she said.
In all, seven Lee residents competed, among them: Florence Asbury, 77, Cape Coral; Betty M. Harding Conkling Matthews, 84, Cape Coral; Marianne McSweeney, 57, Fort Myers; and Helen R. Ward, 82, Fort Myers.
“The competition was very close,” said Kitty Sayers, president of the Lee Seniors Festival. “I’m really proud that people within the community aren’t allowing the events from 9-11 to stop them from participating,” she said, referring to terrorist attacks against the United States.
More than 300 people attended the pageant at the Broadway Palm Dinner Theater.
Before the beauty pageant, there was a talent competition with five finalists competing for prizes. Auditions for the talent showcase were last week.
David Kaess won first place, $75, for his opera medley. Sal Recca took second place, $50, for his solo, upbeat, singing; and Harry Ross came in third, $25, for crooning classical tunes.
Also present, were Lori Turner, last year’s queen, Fred Nuzzi, the candidate escort; and Carla Ferrel, mistress of ceremonies.
Cape Coral Police Chief Arnold Gibbs, 1999 Lee County Senior Queen Dr. Faye Granberry, concert pianist Ethel Rita Sinow, financial specialist for Senior Solutions Ron Fuccui and past Citizen of the Year recipient Eileen Cerny were the judges.
In her farewell address, Turner,
the 13th senior queen, said it’s important to recognize the value of the
moment you’re in as you experience it, not just in retrospect. “Today,
right here and now is my favorite memory and tomorrow, that will be my
Copyright 2001, The News-Press