1963 Floral Pageant queen returns for triathlon
Nancy Missett was more than a little sceptical when her daughter suggested she enter a triathlon. After all, she was about to turn 75.
“I said, ‘At my age?’,” laughed the retired teacher. “My daughter did a triathlon last summer in New York. I just thought it was astounding doing something like that. She said, ‘Mum, I think you could do this. It would be a great way to celebrate your birthday.”
Mrs Missett, who turned 75 on March 19, was eventually persuaded to give it a go. The fact that the triathlon was in Bermuda, helped to convince the Manhattan resident.
“I have so many happy memories from there,” she said. “I love Bermuda.”
She first visited for spring break when she was 19, with classmates from Pine Manor Junior College in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
She and her friends were lying on the beach listening to steel pan music, when someone from the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce urged them to join a beauty pageant.
The girls laughingly complied. “There was no talent involved, and we were in one-piece bathing suits because it was 1962,” Mrs Missett said.
She thought it was a joke when pageant organisers chose her to be that week’s College Week queen. “They took me and a date out for dinner,” she said. “We went to a wonderful restaurant by the water. We did a tour of Hamilton, and I think I got a sweater from Trimingham’s. It was a lot of fun.”
She thought that was it when she went back to school, but in October she got a telegram asking her to return as the queen of the April 1963 Floral Pageant.
So she returned to Bermuda the next year, this time with her mother.
She was crowned in a special ceremony at City Hall where she was given a sceptre made from a decorated plunger, and a bouquet of flowers. “It was adorable,” she said.
This month’s trip promises to be a lot grittier.
She’ll be running, biking and swimming around the island with her daughter, Samantha Topping and hundreds of others on Saturday as part of the MS Amlin World Triathlon Bermuda.
Among the group will be 14 friends from her gym in Manhattan, The Colony Club.
“I’m the oldest by far,” she said. “The next youngest has to be a good 20 years younger than me. Still, they’ve all been very supportive. Nobody has said I couldn’t do it because of my age.”
Her aim is just to finish. With the help of a trainer, she’s been cycling, swimming and power walking for at least an hour a day.
She also runs, but in recent weeks has cut back a bit due to a sore hamstring.
“This is my first triathlon and my last,” she laughed. “I can’t imagine doing this again.
“Samantha is going to leave me behind. I just want to go at my own pace and hope I can at least walk the last three miles, not crawl. I just hope there are other people my age doing it.”
Bermuda remains one of her favourite places.
In the years since being crowned, she has been back eight times with her family; the last visit was about ten years ago.
“Bermuda is charming,” she said. “The beaches are beautiful. The last time we were there, we stayed in a house in Tucker’s Town. It is really special that I get to do my first triathlon in such a nice place.”
• For more information, see bermuda.triathlon.org
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