ROSWELL — The Ms. Senior Georgia Pageant was held in August 2016 at the Roswell Cultural Arts Center and the pageant winner was a dear and dynamic Georgia Baptist lady – Bernadine Cantrell.
Bernadine indicated that she was not looking to be a contestant in this pageant, but that it was a godsend, because since her husband retired from his business they found themselves in a spiritual cocoon with most of their contacts being in the church. However, the pageant opened up new contacts and new doors of opportunity to share the Gospel
Mrs. Cantrell is 80 years old and has four children, 22 grandchildren, and 13 great-grand children. On Feb. 2 Bernadine and her husband, Wes, will celebrate 60 years of marriage.
The Cantrells are members of First Baptist Church Woodstock, where they faithfully serve the Lord. Bernadine has been a Bible study teacher for over 57 years, presently teaching four groups weekly.
Her accomplishments as an author, teacher, homemaker, wedding coordinator, interior designer, board member, fundraiser, lobbyist, political activist, counselor, and mentor are legion. Currently, she uses her title as Ms. Senior Georgia to promote the benefits of aging, encouraging those in their “winter season” of life and attempting to build bridges between the generations.
Bernadine’s talent for the pageant was a dramatic monologue, which she continues to use as she provides entertainment for women in retirement centers, churches and civic groups.
The Christian Index editor Gerald Harris had the privilege of interviewing the charismatic and personable Ms. Senior Georgia and her responses were compellingly interesting.
The Christian Index: You are amazingly involved in so many things. What motivates you to press on?
Bernadine Cantrell: Once I discovered that life indeed was not a sprint but a long-term race for me, I had a decision to make. There was a time when life seemed easier and I could match the challenge with the vitality and energy of younger years. Once past that marker, I had a choice to make. I could choose to give up or I could dig deeper and enthusiastically continue on. I decided to dig deeper and press on.
The Christian Index: Are there people throughout history who have inspired you to continue to be incredibly active and productive?
Bernadine: There is a common belief that we become less useful when we grow older; it seems that this world is made for the younger generations. Age does not limit or define you as a person and especially not your worth as an individual. We assuredly know our journey here does not end until we draw our final breath.
Noah, Moses, Abraham and Caleb, Old Testament characters went on some of their greatest adventures at a time when most people would have long before retired. Golda Meir became the prime minister of Israel at the age of 71 and Grandma Moses painted her first picture at 78.
The Christian Index: What is your philosophy about aging?
Bernadine: If I should find myself feeling forgotten, overlooked, or unappreciated I will simply choose to remember that the Lord will use me at any age, at any stage. There is no age limit to the way that He can and will work in my life. My goal is to never tire or retire. May it be said that I died with my running shoes on, exceptional in the ordinary things of life, on the ordinary streets, among ordinary people.
When I depart, may I leave a legacy that others will desire to emulate, showing great kindness, serving well, loving deeply, teaching correctly, and mentoring responsibly where and how I am called! As I walk through this wonderful “winter season” I want to walk strong as an inspiration and encourage others to live a life of meaningful achievement.
The Christian Index: What is the great passion, the great calling upon your life?
Bernadine: To reach out and speak into the lives of women, young and old. To invade their thinking with the Truth because we know that “wrong actions and wrong attitudes always result from wrong thinking.” With the disintegration of the family, I want to invade their lives in order to encourage them to build strong families. “The Lord only needs one willing heart to build a home!”
In the golden years part of my journey, I have begun to be deeply concerned for the older generation. The Lord has used this Ms. Senior Georgia reign to give me a platform of touching many lives and encouraging the aged. Also, I wish to discover avenues to bridge the gap between the generations and see seniors having an impact upon those coming behind us.
The Christian Index: What do you feel like has been your greatest accomplishment?
Bernadine: My precious growing family and being the helpmate to my dear husband. Wes is my ‘claim to fame.’ To have experienced the fact that love does not divide but multiplies (as the numbers of our family have grown) and to rejoice as they individually become mighty in spirit for the LORD.
The Christian Index: How can you contribute to the resolution of the crisis that exists in our churches and in our world?
Bernadine: I can only listen to the Spirit. He expanded “our tent” many times through the years by giving us the opportunity to teach – speaking into the lives of guests, who occasionally had lengthy stays in our home, our little corner of the world. Even in our golden years we are reaching out to accomplish His goals for our lives.
The Christian Index: How do you contribute to the building of solid families?
Bernadine: My husband and I teach and speak so that others might embrace the truth that HIS way is the only way to solidify their individual lives and their family. We always work to find time to be with our extended family, trying to influence them with words of wisdom spoken in love.
Bernadine Cantrell’s title as Ms. Senior Georgia will lead her to another crown that she will receive in February- Ms. Senior Georgia USA. She will compete in the national pageant in May.