At 22 I lost my mentor and very good friend Gene. He was a professor who died suddenly of a heart attack at age 42, leaving a small group of students who were like his extended family. He was instrumental in my choice of career at the time, choosing a graduate school, and I had just spent the summer being his assistant at the Utah Shakespearean Festival. We had spoken on the phone only a week or so before. Throughout the years I so often wished I could pick up the phone and chat or ask advice, and that he would know what a major impact he had on my life.
In the past few months, my daughters each lost mentors, taken way too young. I know they will forever think of these women and the impact they have made. When loss happens, no matter what type, if there is anything good from it, it should make us acutely grateful for the moments we have with those who bless our lives.
Sandy volunteered her time and expertise working with Harley on her preparation for both Miss Americas Teen in 2013 and Miss America this past year. I had the privilege to get to know her as well, she was like a partner mom to me throughout Harleys experiences.
Sandra "Sandy" J. Nicklas
Born on December 13, 1946 in Columbus, Ohio, Sandra Elaine Johns, was the first born child of Lt. Colonel James J. Johns and Lillian Katherine Saxon Johns. As the daughter of a US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, she moved extensively as a young girl, living in Ohio, Okinawa, the Philippines, and Denver, Colorado. In her early twenties she made Chicago her home.
Sandra graduated from East High School in Denver, Colorado and earned a Bachelor's degree from Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio. As a proud alumna, she regularly attended Central State's homecoming festivities. She was especially proud when the University opened the Harry G. Johns Living Learning Center on its campus, which was built in honor of her uncle who is currently the patriarch of the Johns Family.
In 1965, Sandra competed as a teenager in the Miss Denver pageant which sparked her passion to assist young girls in achieving their full potential. As such, she made the shift from contestant in 1965, to pageant support in 1997, and served as the Business Manager to Kate Shindle (Miss America 1998.) Sandy assisted young ladies in preparing for local and state competitions, as well as the Miss America Pageant. She has judged numerous local and state preliminaries from coast to coast, as well as national and state dance and cheerleading competitions. Of note was her involvement with the Miss Oregon pageant. Sandy graciously worked with Miss Oregon contestants and title holders for many years. She helped them hone their interviewing skills, resume writing, and helped them clarify and define their public service platforms. Upon hearing of Sandy's passing, Dana Phillips (Director of the Miss Oregon Foundation and a dear friend of Sandy's) wrote: "Those who had the opportunity to know her are forever changed by her influence, her classiness, humor, and elegance. She was a dear friend of the Oregon Pageant family and is survived by many sisters and adopted daughters who will carry her legacy with them always."
Sandy began her career as a United Airlines Flight Attendant on September 9, 1969. She was a forty-eight year veteran and was still actively employed at the time of her passing on December 8, 2017. She took pride in being a pioneer as one of the first African American flight attendants during a time of racial inequity. She enjoyed a successful career, and served as a Trainer, Supervisor, and a highly regarded Purser on international flights around the world.
Eularee was the theater founder and director who gave Charlie many roles throughout Elementary and Middle School. Charlie had some amazing opportunities to perform and grow through the programs at Upstart Crow Studios. Eularee was selfless and cared very deeply for the kids who worked with her. I got to know her personally as well through working on scenery and other volunteer work around the theater.
Eula Rebecca (Eularee) Smith (1951 - 2018)
Eula Rebecca (Eularee) Smith, born on September 25, 1951, died in her home on February 27, 2018. She was the founder and Executive Director of Upstart Crow Children's Theater, where no child was ever turned away.
She was a talented writer, a gifted music teacher and drama coach, an avid baseball fan, a selfless, giving person. She was a loyal, loving wife, mother and grandmother, an exceptional daughter, sister and friend.
And Abby, a young volunteer who gave her time to the Miss Oregon program to guide and shepherd teens throughout their time at workshops and at Miss Oregon week. We met her in 2013, and Abby continued to lend her gentleness to calm anxious teen contestants until cancer took her from us.
I took this shot of the Miss America Parents “Class of 2018” as we waited to go in for the final night show. North Dakota (whose daughter won) are in front of my husband Jim-left front row. As at the 2013 teen events, we parents called each other by state names, it was much easier!
Musings on Miss America, Outstanding Teen and finding purpose..
By the mom of Miss Oregon and a Marine recruit
Throughout the years, I have learned much through the activities of my two daughters; about the toughness of USMC boot camp, the incredibly varied aspects of a police officer’s job, about human trafficking, world refugee resettlement, and more.
Harley is Miss Oregon 2017, and Charlie is a new Marine recruit who graduated high school early and just arrived at Parris Island. They each have goals and are motivated to follow paths that grew out of experiences and service. I am thankful for the mentors and role models they have had. More on this in another post, this is a mid-year update as ‘pageant season’ is beginning here in Oregon!
Both of them were in the local and Miss Oregon Outstanding Teen program. We found this program by a random comment from a friend when Harley was a freshman in high school. I did not know it existed or anyone involved, did not realize it was a volunteer organization, and very little cost to participate.
The benefits of competing in Miss America local programs are great, and with the leadership change, it is an exciting time to be recruiting new contestants. I have no doubt if this had been available to me as a teen, I would have had a big jump start in career decision-making, social and interview skills, being a more polished performer, confidence, and learning how to present myself. I encourage anyone with a girl of any age in their life to seek out a local program, join, or go watch a pageant to find out more. The ‘pageant parents’ I know are a fun, friendly and encouraging group, and at Miss America (and Miss America’s Teen 2013) it was no different; they are down-to-earth folks from all over who are grateful for their kids to have opportunities and learn skills that will carry them throughout life.
On what is being said about Miss America;
Many comments I have read on general media sites deride the "Lifestyle and fitness in swimsuit" portion of the competition. Harley and I have been talking about this for a few years now. Bravo to her for choosing to wear a more sporty suit at Miss America, and I’m glad she was noted for it, even making it into Pageant Planet’s top 10. Since there was no swimsuit sponsor this year, and contestants choice, we assumed most or all would use the opportunity to make fashion statements in this area, but Oregon and Pennsylvania were the only ones who wore other than the classic bikini.
After 6 years of watching pageants, it is also evident that winners in the swimsuit competition are often the ones who have naturally thinner physiques, and though most all of them are certainly well toned, perhaps walking with confidence in heels is not really a way to compete in fitness. In the past few years, the fitness wear industry has exploded, and there are so many outfits that are super cute and every bit as sexy as a bikini. Wouldn’t it be great if they had contestants do something onstage? Like my recruit daughter had to do to get into the Marines: a certain number of crunches in under a minute, and pull-ups from a bar. That could be fun to watch, and would definitely measure fitness. The Teen program goes in this direction, but it is still basically a dance routine. With some changes, it may create wider interest and attract more Miss contestants. Changing up the fitness aspect would also differentiate it more from Miss USA.
Someone commented in the New York Times that the evening gown competition should be eliminated (“Who wears an evening gown now anyways?”). I've heard this said before, but it isn't the point to wear everyday clothing. These pageants bring a bit of glamour that is missing from most of our lives. Wearing a gown makes any girl feel special, and makes the shows visually interesting. Families dress up too, and it's nice to see everyone taking photos. But yes, there are occasions where people still dress up and wear a gown or nice cocktail dress! However, it would be nice if they did something here too, combine onstage interview(occasionally I've seen this done). Or, what if contestants debated some issue? That would be fun to watch too.
I hope this year’s titleholders and the new national leadership use this opportunity keep Miss America in the news and to speak about the good in the organization.
One last shout out to Atlantic City for their wonderful hospitality! We were so welcomed there, and met many gracious locals. Also, Dick Clark Productions was awesome to the contestants. So sad they dropped the partnership, but understandable. Maybe they will sign back on. In Atlantic City at a parents meeting, the producer told all of us that Miss America is his most favorite show to do out of all the others that DCP produces, including the awards shows. He said he loves the state contestants; they are great to work with, so very accomplished and genuine. That was so nice to hear!
Laura has been a theatre design professional, teacher/professor, collegiate athlete, performer, church music leader, artist, shop foreman, administrator, and entrepreneur; and is a lifelong student.
It has been a very interesting experience so far, working with several companies who are printing my flags. I hope to have about 12 designs finished by the end of summer. Still working out some issues with fabric and printing, and deciding where to have them made.
I plan to do several more floral paintings.
I may print this with and without the writing; also plan to do another wine country scene.
Also planning a Lake Anna scene; and a McKenzie drift boat.
Please message or email me with any other ideas and suggestions!
It has been 7 years since we left the Washington D.C area for Oregon. Our daughters have grown up, we have logged many frequent flyer miles, met wonderful new friends, and have had sweet reunions every year with those on the east coast. There is no simple answer to the question I often get asked, " Do you like it better here, or there?" One of my wise friends from DC, upon hearing we were moving, said "We are all pilgrims in this life." And hopefully we can make an impact wherever we are, or go. There are always going to be "what ifs." So the answer to the question is that our girls have had fabulous opportunities here, made genuine friends, and are on their way to creating their own paths. Living on the river reminds me of this every day, in fact, every time I look out and see the water flowing, sometimes very fast, sometimes like a lazy river in the summer. That water will be in Portland soon, then out to the Pacific Ocean...I won't see it again. So it is with children growing up and us growing older.
It is interesting to move somewhere entirely new later in life. I wonder how well established I might have been, had I lived and worked here for many years, rather than relocate several times in my adult life...I love meeting people who are newer to town than me, as well as long-timers.
I am grateful for the daily reminder of that river flowing, and it's imagery in every aspect of my life!