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Miss Platteville, 80 years ago
Miss Wisconsin pageant celebrates anniversary by researching contestants from first pageant in 1933
1933 Miss Wisconsin ad
... the year Marr competed in the 1933 Miss Wisconsin Pageant in Cambridge. - photo by Photo courtesy Hometown News Group

To commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Miss Wisconsin Pageant this year, historians researched the 50 contestants who competed in the 1933 Miss Wisconsin Pageant.

That proved difficult in the case of some contestants, including the 1933 Miss Platteville.

It is unclear when and how Bernadette Dolores Marr was selected as Miss Platteville 1933 or where the honor was bestowed. Her grown children can’t answer those questions.

“It was the first we had heard of her being in a pageant, let alone the Miss Wisconsin pageant,” said son John “Jack” McCormick of Tijeres, N.M.

“We were so surprised to hear she was in this beauty pageant,” said her daughter, Mary McCormick. When told of the recent news by pageant historians, she said, “My uncle said women were not supposed to be doing that in the 1930s. Mom always was a trailblazer, but this was all a surprise to us.”

Bernadette Dolores Marr was born on Oct. 18, 1917 to Mineral Point area farmers George and Mayme Smith Marr. She attended St. Mary’s grade school, a one room school about one-half mile from the farm for first through eighth grade, said Jack.

“She had a pet pig that would follow her to school and wait for her and then follow her home,” he said. “In the winter my granddad would take the kids to school in a one-horse sleigh, which I now have in our living room. For high school; the kids were sent to Platteville, where they lived in a boarding house and went to high school there.”

In 1938, Bernadette graduated from Platteville State Teachers College, where she met Virgil K. McCormick. She became a primary school teacher in Argyle, while he went to dental school at Marquette University in Milwaukee. He started his dental practice in Spring Green after World War II, during which he served as a captain in the U.S. Army.

The couple had four children, John, Timothy, Mary Kathryn McCormick, and son Thomas George McCormick, who died in September 2005.

Bernadette came from the Graber family, best known to southern Wisconsin residents for their invention and manufacture of the traverse drapery hardware in Middleton.

“When I was little, I remember Marie Graber always coming to see our mom when she was in Southwestern Wisconsin selling her family’s blinds and drapery hardware,” said Jack. “My mom admired the business acumen of Marie and her family. In the 1930s through the ’50s, it was very rare to find women in the business world. Later our mom opened two gift shops in the Albuquerque, N.M., area. She was a business woman at heart as she ran my dad’s orthodontic practice at the same time.

Bernadette died Feb. 6, 1992. Virgil died Jan. 31, 1996. Both are buried at Santa Fe National Cemetery in Santa Fe, N.M.

The 1933 Miss Wisconsin was Miss Portage, Marie Marguerite Huebner, who would be one of the shortest women to hold the Miss Wisconsin title in state pageant history. She placed among the 16 semifinalists in the 1933 Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, N.J. She married Elmer Raimer and had four children, three of whom survive her. Huebner Raimer died after a short illness Feb. 15, 2007 at 93 in Des Moines, Wash., where she and Elmer relocated in the 1970s to be near their children.

Other Southwest Wisconsin area contestants who competed in the 1933 Miss Wisconsin pageant were Miss Dodgeville, Bernice Clara Palzkill, a Mineral Point native; Miss Fennimore, Hazel Elaine Webster; Miss Lancaster, Leona Dorothy Vesperman; Miss Madison, Gladys Seldal; Miss Middleton, Susan Jane Ziegler; and Miss Stoughton, Rebecca Josephine Lillian Stokstad.

Stokstad, 96, died Aug. 21, three days after the 80th anniversary milestone of the 1933 Miss Wisconsin pageant.
While historians still can not locate 12 of the 50 state pageant contestants, they believe that Stokstad Lunde was the last surviving contestant from the 1933 Miss Wisconsin pageant that was held in conjunction with the 26th annual Harvest Fest in Cambridge that year.

Now eight decades later, Stokstad Lunde along with Bernadatte Dolores Marr will always be remembered for taking part in one of the most fabled Miss Wisconsin pageants of all time, as it was the only time that the state pageant was ever held outside on the shores of a lake, and the only time that Jefferson County hosted the state pageant.