And the Winner Is…

Carol M. Thomas is crowned
Ms. Senior USA.

As a young adult, Saginaw Township’s Carol M. Thomas occasionally thought about entering a beauty pageant. But between her college studies and her first career as a budding professional classical piano performer, she never managed to find the time.

All that has changed during the past few years, and the Great Lakes Bay Region is now the home of Ms. Senior USA. Thomas was chosen from a group of more than 150 entrants, all age 60 or older, and received her sash and crown in Las Vegas last May.

In 1988, Thomas entered her first pageant, winning the Mrs. Michigan title. She didn’t enter another competition until 2014, when she was named Ms. Senior Michigan and finished as first runner-up for Ms. Senior America. In 2015, representing her home state, she was crowned Ms. Senior Wisconsin.

This is only the second year of the Ms. Senior USA contest, and the first-ever Ms. Senior Universe pageant will be held in 2017. Thomas says although she almost has decided to hang up her high heels in retirement and to stay out of that future competition, her family and friends are cheering her on.

Carol M. Thomas represents the Great Lakes Bay Region, Michigan, and the nation as Ms. Senior USA

“I had not known there are pageants for seniors,” she says. “I’ve really enjoyed them. At the regular pageants, young women talk about their dreams and what they hope to achieve. But we seniors have the experiences to be able to say, ‘This is what we’ve done, and this is what we hope to continue doing for years to come.’”

And Thomas, with tremendous talent on piano and a top-notch civic résumé, has done a great deal beyond succeeding in pageants.

At her Milwaukee high school, she was a majorette in the marching band, but her first love was playing piano with the school orchestra. Later, she performed for pay while majoring in music at Arizona State University.

Her second career was in secondary education, and her third and current profession, since age 40, is in elder care law. In her law firm, she and her staff assist families with such matters as wills, trusts, and nursing home planning.

Thomas and her husband, Dr. Gerry Thomas, a now retired critical care physician, have four children who followed their parents into careers in health care or practicing law. Eldest son Gerry is a patent attorney in San Francisco; Jim and his wife, Daron Kaye, are attorneys in Thomas’s firm; Michael is an orthodontist in Saginaw Township; and Kate (Winkel) is a dentist in Midland.

Thomas, a breast cancer survivor, emphasizes health and fitness for seniors. She also advocates for military veterans and their families. She says her role as Ms. Senior USA provides not only travel and entertainment opportunities for herself but also a forum to promote awareness of these concerns. She chuckles when she notes that many people are more apt to listen to someone who is wearing a sash and a crown.

“People from across the state are excited to have a representative as Ms. Senior USA,” she says. “I get calls from all around the nation, and I always take the opportunity to express that mid-Michigan is such a great place to stay, to live, and to raise a family.”

By Mike Thompson