I was never a pageant person, I was a tomboy. The only way I got into it is when I was 16 some of my girlfriends and I entered the Boone County Queen contest on a lark.  When I won that, I automatically went on to the State Fair pageant, and I won that. In those days the Miss America Pageant was held at the local, state and national level.  If you didn't have a local pageant the first year you could just appoint someone.  So in August of 1967 I was back in Belvidere crowning the new Miss Boone County Fair Queen, and the local fair board president announced that he had appointed me as Miss Boone County for the Miss Illinois pageant.  I thought, "Are you crazy?

After the national pageant, I took a year off from college to serve as Miss America. At that time I thought I would continue competing in trampoline, so I thought I would try out at UI and went there to finish my undergrad degree.  I lived in Champaign a couple of years.

Then I got married and moved to Rockford. We had two boys and I continued to make appearances for sponsors, and traveled some.

In 1987 I got divorced. My brother is a doctor in Geneseo, and my husband Jim was getting divorced about the same time. So my brother said, "There's this guy you should meet here." But he had three kids, I had two, and I thought I had enough to do.

But we got married in 1990. We had a 6th grader, two 7th graders, a 9th grader and and one in the 10th. There were two years when we had all five of them in college.

It must have been a pretty big shock to win Miss America.

Yeah, it really was. My title was for 1969, but the pageant was held in 1968.  Back then we were postdated, sort of like the cars that come out in the Fall, dated for the next model year.

When I went out to Atlantic City, the Miss Illinois pageant staff pretty much said I didn't have a chance of winning.   They said, one, you're only 18.  Two, you're blonde and a blonde hasn't won in 12 years.  And three, your talent is trampoline.  In those days an athlete was not thought to be terribly feminine. Women weren't supposed to sweat.

But the talent portion back then was worth 50%. If the judges liked your talent, you'd do better. If they thought it was too masculine, it wouldn't work out.

So I had no pressure. My goal was to make the top 10 so I could be on TV Saturday. That, and there was a planeful of people coming out from Belvidere on Friday, so I wanted to see them get their money's worth. But that was it.

In those days, they divided you into 3 groups for each round.  One night you'd have talent, one night swimsuit. one night interview & evening gown. They added the scores, and the top 10 got in the finals.

They named the preliminary winners each night, and I won both swimsuit & evening gown. So I was hopeful I'd make it to the finals, and I did.

After they named the top 10, you started over.  But they didn't want to look like they were playing favorites, so I couldn't practice my routine Friday.  When I went on stage Saturday night I hadn't worked out since Thursday, and I didn't get to warm up. They also didn't let me have spotters. So I toned down my routine so it wouldn't be too difficult. And I was tired at the end of the week, I was afraid my knees might buckle. I was thinking, 'Please let me get through this and not fall off.'

After I finished my trampoline routine and didn't fall off, I was pretty happy.

Then they named me in the top five, and they asked me The Big Question.  The others all went first. One girl was studying music, and they asked her about music. Another one was a bacteriologist, they asked her about that. So I'm thinking, 'I'm golden. They're going to ask me about trampoline.'

But I had forgotten to fill out this form about myself, so on the bus over I was quickly completing it. There was one question, "If you were chosen as Miss America, what would be your main goal, what would you like to accomplish?"  And I slammed down, "To help people to live together more peacefully and happily."

Sure enough, when it comes my turn Burt Parks chats with me about the trampoline. He asked me how high I got, and I said 20-25 feet. Ed McMahon was one of the judges, and Burt said "Ed gets higher than that."