Passing of the Torch: Ms. Senior Arizona Pageant sees new leadership

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

As the new Ms. Senior Arizona Pageant administrator, Marice Kunz is sharing the wealth. She’s letting others enjoy running the venerable pageant with her.

Herme Sherry, the former Ms. Senior Arizona executive director, helmed the event and retired earlier this year.

“Herme wanted someone to do everything she had done, which consumed her day, 24/7,” says Kunz, a Surprise resident. “At the time, I was going to retire on May 1 from my full-time job. I didn’t want it to consume my life. I wanted to let other people in on the club.”
Kunz took over the pageant in March after working with the club on and off since 2018. When Sherry stepped down, the board went through a list of club members it would like to interview for the position. Kunz was one of two finalists.

Kunz turned down the job three times before accepting a role with the pageant. She’s now joined by Debbie Blanchette, assistant administrator; Susie Yarborough, secretary; and Mary A. Gray, treasurer.

“I have a great team of people,” she says.

The quartet has already made changes to the pageant, which is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Saturday, June 10, at Palm Ridge Recreation Center in Sun City West.

The women are judged on their philosophy of life, modeling competition and talent. The judges’ interviews are the same day as the pageant now. The contestants can rest before the pageant begins at 3:30 p.m.

Kunz knows the event well, as she competed in 2018 and 2019. Her first year, she received the most inspirational award.

“I really liked it,” she says. “It was a great growth experience. I made a lot of friends in the process. It was a way of meeting people. In fact, Mary Gray, when I came in for the first introduction meeting, you can sit here if you like. It goes all the way back there.”

Kunz retired as a legal secretary after more than 40 years in the field.

“The majority of it I spent in criminal defense, and I just retired from the public defender’s office in the appeals division,” she says. “Prior to that, it was trial work, mostly felonies.”

The daughter of a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, Kunz has an older brother and sister who live locally, like her two daughters. She has six grandchildren and two dogs, Dash and Luke.

Kunz and her partner of 24 years, Mike Simpson, enjoy traveling and singing karaoke. Simpson is the new Ms. Senior Arizona Pageant music coordinator.
Her go-to karaoke tracks are songs by Anne Murray, Crystal Gayle, Linda Ronstadt and Patsy Cline.

“I do some Rod Stewart,” she adds. “I have an alto voice, and I also sing guy songs. I also perform with the Arizona Cameo Club and the AZ Inspirations. We go to assisted living facilities and VA facilities to entertain for the people who live there. We provide entertainment for them. It brings me a lot of joy.”


Ms. Senior Arizona Pageant 2023
WHEN: 3:30 p.m. Saturday, June 10
WHERE: Palm Ridge Recreation Center, 13800 W. Deer Valley Drive, Sun City West
COST: $25 general admission