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FRIDAY, JUNE 29, 2007
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Retiring Miss Point Mallard director Beverly Walker, right, says the best part about pageant volunteer work is getting to know 'her girls,' such as Shannon Camper, the first two-time winner of the pageant.
Courtesy photo
Retiring Miss Point Mallard director Beverly Walker, right, says the best part about pageant volunteer work is getting to know "her girls," such as Shannon Camper, the first two-time winner of the pageant.

Pageants were her life for 25 years

By Patrice Stewart
pstewart@decaturdaily.com 340-2446

Broken zippers, missing costumes and tearful contestants have been a part of Beverly Walker's volunteer work for 25 years.

Serving as director of the Miss Point Mallard pageant has been rewarding, but Walker decided it's time to step aside.

When 2006 Miss Point Mallard winner Jessica Headley takes her final walk on the Spirit Stage runway on the Fourth of July, the tears will come from Walker, as well as Headley and many other current and former contestants. She will be the last titleholder fostered by Walker.

"I get emotional about this," said Walker, whose role includes serving as mother hen, coach, psychologist, seamstress and business manager for the program, which began in 1971.

"But I've gotten more out of this program than I've given," said Walker, 60, who has a Miss America and several Miss Alabama winners on her tally sheet, as well as a lot of top 10 finishers at state.

"We've always had backstage catastrophes, and after a broken zipper, I've sewn many a contestant into her gown so she could get out on stage," she said.

Walker is handy with a needle and recently made the poodle skirt Headley wore in the 1950s-era production at Miss Alabama. She also had good seamstresses to help, including the mothers of MPM winners Christine Chilton and Jana Whitehead, who once sewed costumes for two days straight at the Holiday Inn headquarters so the show could go on.

She said the best part about the pageant is getting to know "her girls," such as recent winners Shannon Camper, Jamie Langley, Katie Boyd and Headley. They and other Miss Point Mallards often dined or stayed overnight at her house when they visited Decatur, and Walker's send-off parties often included their parents and grandparents.

"We got Shannon when she was only 17 years old, and now we're lifelong friends," said Walker. "I've watched her grow up to become a talented young woman."

She is looking forward to having Langley entertain at the pageant next week. "

She and I sort of clicked, and I couldn't be prouder of her for winning Miss Alabama this year," she said.

Alison McCreary is another young woman she mentored, and Walker was watching excitedly in the audiences when she was chosen Miss Alabama and then third runner-up at Miss America.

When she moved from judges' chairwoman to director of the pageant in 1992, she started off with a bang.

"Heather Whitestone was my first Miss Point Mallard. She was first runner-up at Miss Alabama that year, but two years later she was chosen Miss Alabama and then Miss America," she said.

The pageant life has been a family affair for Walker, husband Julian, daughters Tish Hazel and Jennifer Walker, and grandchildren Chloe and Brayden. Walker helped put together an Alabama float for the boardwalk parade in Atlantic City during Whitestone's year, and daughter Tish wore the Mike Mallard costume on the float.

Later they were walking along the boardwalk "when we realized seagulls had left their calling cards on us," recalled Walker, who attended about eight Miss America pageants in Atlantic City.

Hazel, who has been assistant pageant director, actually has more years of involvement than her mom, because she starting helping at age 12. She is "retiring" with her mother.

Best preliminaries

Walker's consistent guidance through the years may be the reason the Miss Point Mallard competition has the reputation of being one of the best Miss America preliminaries in the state.

"Most Miss Point Mallards place in the Top 10 at Miss Alabama, but I think that's because they have a full 11 months to prepare," she said.

"Our scholarship money for Point Mallard contestants continued to grow through the years, especially in the last few years with the assistance of Sally Jo Green, who raised $28,000-plus in cash scholarships and prizes last year," said Walker.

Walker says she can't go "cold turkey," so she's not yet giving up her other volunteer job as president of the Spirit of America board. She also will continue her 29-year career with Teledyne Brown Engineering in Huntsville, where she is benefits manager in the Human Resources Department.

She signed a one-year pageant franchise that ends with Headley's reign on the Fourth of July, so this year she expects to be backstage one more time to support Headley. But this is a transition year, and she has been passing along her notes and paperwork to Barry Sublett of Decatur, who is replacing her as director. He served as judges' chairman for the pageant since 1995.

"But next year, I'll be sitting out front in one of those VIP chairs," said Walker.

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