Culver City Observer -

By Sandra Coopersmith
Features Writer 

Stars Sparkle at Senior Center

 

September 19, 2019

Ms. Culver City Elegance contestants (l-r) Therese Correy (2nd runner up), Judit Harris (Ms. Culver City Elegance 2019), Janet Cameron Hoult (1st runner up), Joyce Butler, Nina Moskaluk, Marcie Costanzo O'Brien, Villa May Harris

Age is opportunity no less

Than youth itself, though in another dress,

And as the evening twilight fades away

The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

On Sunday afternoon, September 15th, under the auspices of the Culver City Senior Citizens Association, Inc. ("CCSCA") and the Culver City Exchange Club, those stars were delightfully visible in the search for Ms. Culver City Elegance 2019, the theme for which was "You are the star of your own life."

I arrived early in order to share a little time with the contestants, and was impressed by the mutual respect, bonding, and sense of camaraderie present. These were seven very interesting, classy ladies.

Sandy Mansson, who won the title of Ms. Culver City Elegance when it was first inaugurated in 2016, served as Director for this year's event, ably abetted by Master of Ceremonies Tom Laskey, an actor, singer, and member of the Santa Monica Oceanaires, a barbershop group that recently performed at the Fiesta La Ballona.

The welcome was given by Mansson, the Pledge of Allegiance by former mayor Jim B. Clarke, and the National Anthem was sung by Dr. Klyda Mahoney, Ms. Senior California 2002 and Professor of Dance.

Clarke and Mahoney also served as two of the diligent judges, along with Lea London, Ms. Senior Conejo Valley 2013; Wora Rapp, botanist/business owner/dancer/singer/actress and judge for several pageants; and Kim Griffin, a former Culver City police officer who currently assists Albert Vera of Sorrento Italian Market, a Culver City landmark, in his ranch business.

In addition to Mahoney, the performers, who provided wonderfully entertaining interludes, were the hula dance group, led by Karen Wong; the Dancercise group, led by Joni Palmer, choreographer and Conni Brazelton; and the Razzmatazz Trio.

The seven elegant candidates who wowed the crowd were each stars in their own right.

Therese Correy, recently retired, was born in Santa Monica and grew up in Westchester, where she attended school. She received her B.A. from San Diego State University and her Masters in Library Science from USC. She was a librarian for over 40 years and has been a Culver City resident for almost 20 years. This petite dynamo did a dance number that knocked everyone's socks off, and I later heard an audience member comment, "That gal has a lot of go in her get along!"

Joyce Butler was a corporate accountant. At Union Bank she drafted and analyzed mergers and acquisitions, and was sent to UCLA's Graduate School of Business where she honed her entrepreneurial skills. She ultimately formed her own business, where she has worked in real estate for 30 years. A very talented artist with an excellent eye, she displayed two of her impressive works.

Dr. Janet Cameron Hoult is Professor Emerita at California State University, Los Angeles, where she was named Outstanding Professor in 1993. She has lived and traveled all over the world, with her own teaching assignments and with her late husband, Charley, a rocket scientist who chased solar eclipses and mentored rocket engineering students. She was appointed Culver City's Honorary Artist Laureate for Poetry in 2015, teaches poetry at the center and, in addition to academic publications, has written four poetry books and edited "Culver City's Centennial Poetry Collection." Her witty poem about an unwise fashion choice when she was a 17-year-old in France had everyone laughing.

Judit Harris, who was born in Sweden, has resided in Culver City since the '70s. She loves to sing and has been a member of the Sweet Adelines Barbershop Chorus. After working as a court reporter for 46 years, she retired in 2014. She then joined the Culver City Women's Club, where she has served on the board as Recording Secretary and is now Health Chair. Her a cappella version of "The Hills Are Alive" was beautiful and moving.

Nina Moskaluk earned her bachelor's degree in Elementary Education. Her career was in the food industry and different areas of retail, including manager of Gulliver's in the Marina, owner/operator of food carts, and manager of Gary's Tux Shop in Westchester, where she met her sweetheart, Jim Reynolds. Now retired, she enjoys many of the classes and activities offered by the center. She exhibited a stunning wrap she had crocheted plus her pastel paintings. Her favorite was of a candle. It was awesome and evoked an "oh, that's incredible!" from someone sitting behind me.

Marcie Costanzo O'Brien comes from a mixed heritage: Italian/Polish/American. With both parents being violinists and her father a star in the musical world, it was expected that she would be a violinist as well but her career direction was in social work and commercial art. Following her father's death in 1999, with her husband's encouragement she returned to performing and enrolled in musical theatre classes. She not only performed exquisitely on the violin but sang with depth and meaning.

Villa May Harris, the fifth child of fifteen, was born in Alabama and raised on a farm. In Boston, Massachusetts she found fulfillment and purpose working for the State House investigating fraud against the community. In California her work has included being a nurse and teacher's aide, and she has advocated for a clean environment. She considers her greatest accomplishments to be her marriage and the three amazing daughters she raised, and attributes all her success to her love of God. A woman of great charm and ebullient personality, she showed that she was a very talented artist as well.

The contestants' answers to the question, "What does 'You are the star of your own life' mean to you, and why?" were thoughtful and thought provoking, and included living your life no matter what; embracing and loving yourself; helping others to become stars so that their glow reflects on you; being approachable and meeting people with a smile, leading to lasting relationships; trying to improve your relationships; doing the things you love every day; and knowing you were born a star and using that knowledge to touch and transform others into stars.

With such an amazing field, the judges faced quite a task but finally reached their decision. Mansson presented the awards assisted by Deborah McMahon, Ms. Culver City Elegance 2017: Second Runner Up, Therese Correy; First Runner Up, Janet Hoult; and Ms. Culver City Elegance 2019, Judit Harris.

Mansson expressed thanks to everyone for coming out to support the event, with special thanks to the CCSCA board; the Culver City Exchange Club; the Merry Makers; Amanda Rigali; Albert Vera and Sorrento Italian Market for the participants' lunch; Ed Marshall, videographer; Lars Kenner, photographer, who provided the photo for this article (larskenner@gmail.com, PH: 310.745.2573); Mary Kenner; Steve Frye; and the Razzmatazz Trio.

I caught up with Clarke afterwards and he expressed a strong desire to see this event continue. "It's my third time doing it as I did the first and second ones. I would like to see more women come out and try for this. It was a pleasure to be in a room with so many elegant women!"

Ditto. I congratulated Mansson for pulling it all together. "These women were wonderful," she said, deflecting the personal praise. "They listened, learned fast, and were a delight to work with."

As afternoons go, this one was truly stellar.

 

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