Thirty years ago. Just those three words stand out as a stark reminder that time is precious.
The women who competed in Atlantic City, N.J.—including Beloit’s Stephanie Klett (and, full disclosure, my dear wife)—for the 1992 Miss America title have rolled up an impressive list of accomplishments. They use time as it should be used—to make a difference and have fun doing so.
Many of those women gathered last weekend in Lake Geneva for a 30th reunion. Stephanie organized and hosted the event. She’s the President and CEO of Visit Lake Geneva, so it was natural for her to show off the beauty and amenities of the lake region.
Each visitor brought her own impressive history. A few examples:
• Patricia Northrup, Miss California 1992. After college she joined the California Air National Guard, became a pilot and when she retired she had achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel. Patricia flew 75 combat missions over four deployments in Iraq, receiving three Air Medals.
• Elizabeth Haynes Drewett, Miss Louisiana 1992. Elizabeth owns Drewett Works/Architects with her husband, a big outfit engaged in residential and commercial projects. And she’s a fellow column writer, authoring award-winning articles under the interesting title, “Confessions of a Hormonal Woman.”
• Stephanie Michels-Haber, Miss Georgia 1992. Stephanie originated roles in two Tony-Award winning Broadway shows. She was nominated for the Best Dancer on Broadway recognition. She moved on to Hollywood, where she has appeared in CSI, Law & Order, NCIS and Judging Amy.
• Kim Parrish, Miss West Virginia 1992. Kim has been a host on QVC, and she’s the fashion designer for the Kim Parrish Collection. As president of the Miss America Organization’s Teen pageant, Kim helped guide the organization to raising $33 million for scholarships. She was recognized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for operating one of 100 Blue Ribbon award-winning businesses in America.
Indulge me while I brag a little about my wife. Stephanie Klett competed in Atlantic City in 1992, as Miss Wisconsin. She won a Bert Parks Talent Award for her virtuoso trumpet performance. Undoubtedly, she was the only contestant who sported a dairy cow dress in Atlantic City. She attracted an entourage from Beloit to cheer her on during the competition, including all nine Klett brothers. Notably, the late Tom Kelley, then Beloit’s city manager, was on hand to cheer Stephanie while waving the Beloit flag for all to see.
Stephanie has been a Beloiter all her life, graduating from the School District of Beloit before completing her higher education at Beloit College. Her career has taken her many places, but she’s always returned here.
Stephanie’s Miss America pageant platform supported AIDS research and treatment which, at the time, could be controversial. We have come far since those narrow-minded days. Stephanie stayed engaged with the topic for many years, staging events that raised tens of thousands of dollars for the cause. Recognizing her efforts, she was named honorary chair for the 2013 AIDS Walk Wisconsin in Milwaukee, a nationally-known event. Other honorary chairs over the years place Stephanie in some heady company: Magic Johnson, actress Bette Midler, actor Danny Glover, the Brewers’ Ryan Braun, the Packer’s Clay Matthews.
After the pageant days Steph landed a job with the Rose family co-hosting Discover Wisconsin television and radio. For 20 years she was the face and personality of the show and is often recognized on Wisconsin streets today for her “showbiz” years. After the 2010 elections, Gov. Scott Walker appointed Stephanie to his cabinet as Secretary of the Department of Tourism, a position she held until Gov. Tony Evers took over in 2019. Since then, Stephanie has led tourism at Visit Lake Geneva. She calls her gig promoting the beautiful region, “the best job yet.”
At the reunion the women enjoyed Lake Geneva’s popular attractions and had a roaring good time. Laughter, smiles and sisterhood were abundant, like 30 years ago in Atlantic City.
Which is a reminder for the rest of us, as we collectively get all tangled up in the day-to-day busyness of work and obligations.
There’s an old saying: “Don’t get too busy making a living that you forget to have a life.”
Remember, it’s supposed to be fun. You only get one shot at this. Live large. Live well.
Bill Barth is the former Editor of the Beloit Daily News and a member of the Wisconsin Newspaper Hall of Fame. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org