Caregiving is a tough job. Lee Lotze knows first-hand just how grueling it can be.  She spent several years as her husband’s caregiver.  With a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, his needs were extensive. When he passed away, she could have done what many widows do, shut down, withdraw or perhaps move in with family to ease their loneliness. But not this dynamo! Lee seized the opportunity to do something entirely for herself and followed her life-long passion of dancing.  Last spring at 73 years young and with the encouragement of her son, this former school psychologist was crowned Ms. Senior Arizona. She has spent the past several months encouraging other women to never give up on their dreams.

Quoting Norman Cousins, Queen Lee sums up her philosophy on life: “Death is not the ultimate tragedy; it’s what we let die inside us while we live.” She loves the camaraderie, support and sisterhood of the pageant. She recalls her most memorable experience as the crowning. In fact, she not only considers the crowning the highlight of the pageant, but of her life. She laughs as she tells of her granddaughter saying “Nana proved it’s never too late to be a queen!” At first it was somewhat embarrassing when letters would come addressed to Queen Nana Lee. Her postman delivered them in person insisting that a Queen needs her mail hand-delivered. Just as the Executive Director and former queen, Herme Sherry promised, Queen Lee has grown into the position and is no longer intimidated by wearing a crown and sash wherever she appears.  

According to Queen Lee, this pageant has been the best experience at this stage in her life. She is approached by other women who are amazed; they had no idea that anything like this existed.  Some share that they would love to be involved but that they have no talent. She responds, “Everyone has talent and this pageant will help you find it.” The experience has been empowering and validating. At a time when many women feel their lives are over, she believes hers has just begun again.

Queen Lee is thankful for Herme’s encouragement as well as the prompting by her son to get involved. She hopes to remain active in mentoring and volunteering when she passes the crown over in March.

The Ms. Arizona Pageant is open to women 60 years and older, who are US citizens and residents of Arizona for at least 3 months during the year.  

The pageant is owned and produced by the Cameo Foundation with all proceeds going to victims of domestic violence.  This local non-profit organization provides resources to allow them to gain needed expertise and self-confidence to maximize their potential. 

Editor’s Note: Article by Shelly Hochhalter and Carol Chandler of Senior Directory.  Special thanks to the Cameo Foundation, Queen Lee and Herme Sherry.  Photographs by:  Dave Cummins of Cummins Photography.