Chance, Chervitz to compete in pageant


Next month, 10 spirited Missouri seniors will strut their stuff at the 18th annual Ms. Missouri Senior Pageant. This year’s pageant will feature two Jewish contestants, Clare Chance of St. Louis and Beverly Chervitz of Chesterfield.

“The goal of the pageant is to exemplify the ‘age of elegance’ in the woman over 60,” pageant director Joan Daues said. “In other words, people think of 60 as being really old, and we like to show that it can be an age of vibrancy.”

And the contestants are “vibrant” indeed, representing many different community organizations and showcasing a wide variety of talents. The pageant consists of a private interview with the judges, a talent portion and an evening gown competition. Contestants are also judged on poise and stage presentation, as well as on their “philosophy of life” which must be presented to the audience in less than 30 seconds.

Chance, a Baltimore native, came to St. Louis 14 years ago while working for AT &T; she was at the company for 20 years. For the first half of her married life, Chance played the role of stay-at-home mom. When she was 37 years old, Chance decided to earn her bachelor’s degree at the same time her eldest son, Jim, was to enter college. While Chance studied at York College in Pennsylvania, Jim was across town at Penn State’s York campus.

After 15 years, Chance earned her B.A. in business administration and her master’s degree in liberal arts. During her time at AT &T, Chance decided to increase her assets by going into property investment. She now owns a 12-family apartment building whose tenants include the physically and mentally disabled.

“I have a mission now, you could say — a promise for everyone in the world to have a home,” Chance said. She was awarded the Front Door Residential Development Award for her efforts.

Chance, 64, sees the pageant as a way for her to bring attention to the housing needs of lower-income and disabled people. The pageant will also mark her public singing debut. A member of Central Reform Congregation, Chance said she is proud to represent Jewish women, whom she characterizes as “just remarkable.”

Competing with Chance will be 67-year-old Bev Chervitz. Born and bred in St. Louis, Chervitz attended Soldan High School. Like Chance, Chervitz pursued her education and career after raising her two sons. Chervitz, a professional fundraiser, has worked at several Jewish organizations, including the Central Agency for Jewish Education, the Jewish Federation and the Jewish Community Center.

Chervitz counts among her accomplishments becoming a bat mitzvah at the age of 51. At the ceremony she did “everything the kids do.” She still chants Torah to this day, and was even able to read Torah at her granddaughter Madeline’s bat mitzvah.

Now retired, Chervitz spends much of her time with the St. Louis Strutters, a renowned group of dancers who also happen to be senior citizens. She returned to tap dancing after a 50-year hiatus, and will perform a dance in the talent portion of the competition. More than anything, however, Chervitz values the sense sisterhood that the pageant fosters.

“I think the thing that is most exciting to me about the pageant,” Chervitz said, “is being able to be with a new group of women who have the same feelings and goals that I do. That’s pretty exciting for me.”

It was through the Strutters that Chervitz found out about the pageant and the Cameo Club. The Cameo Club is an organization of former Ms. Senior America contestants. Chervitz said she looks forward to joining this group of talented seniors promoting women over the age of 60.

Fellow Strutter Marcene Tockman is the current president of the Missouri Cameo Club. Tockman was named Ms. Senior Missouri 1999, and was the second runner-up in the Ms. Senior America Pageant. She now acts as the co-stage manager of the Missouri competition.

“The pageant is an opportunity for women to express a talent they would otherwise not have the chance to express,” Tockman said. “It makes you step out of your box and go to another level of your wonderful senior life.”

This year’s pageant will be held Friday, July 14, at the Florissant Civic Center.