First Miss Bermuda passes away at 67
Described as a “bubbly” and “superb” person, the first holder of the Miss Bermuda title passed away on Christmas Day in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Elaine Simons won the crown in 1965 when she was just 17.
Wentworth Christopher, who was active in the Miss Bermuda competition from its earliest days, said that with her sunny personality and flawless complexion, she set the standard for every Miss Bermuda who came after her.
“She was superb,” he said. “Future contestants started to observe her and emulate her because she was the benchmark.”
He said that Olive Trott, who ran the contest at the time, took the first young winner on to the Miss Universe competition in Florida.
“Hopes were very high,” he said. “But it was the first time a Bermudian had taken part in this competition. Many of the girls had competition experience in their native lands.”
Mr Christopher, who took over the running of the Miss Bermuda contest in 1972 as its executive director, a position he held for 30 years, said that while she did not place, she attracted the notice of the champion boxer Cassius Clay, who later became known as Muhammad Ali.
He was training at the Miami Beach Convention Centre where the Miss Universe competition was being held.
“That was a massive facility and included the training facility for Cassius Clay,” he said. “The girls were rehearsing there and, although normally the rehearsals were restricted, an exception was made for the heavyweight champion of the world.”
While the boxer was watching the rehearsal, Miss Bermuda’s chaperon, Ms Trott, was able to convince him to come to Bermuda.
As a result, “he put on an exhibition bout of boxing at the tennis stadium”, Mr Christopher recalled.
A close relationship grew up between Ms Trott and Miss Simons, and Mr Christopher said that she would visit her mentor every time she came to Bermuda.
He said in winning the title, Miss Simons had laid the groundwork for future Miss Bermudas, including Margaret Hill, who won the Miss Photogenic title in 1970 at that year’s Miss Universe contest.
“Because of the international publicity, the Miss World people called Margaret to get her to come to the Miss World competition,” he said.
However, she could not because she was modelling in Australia.
Mr Christopher said it opened the door to Miss Bermuda contestants entering the Miss World contest and Miss Universe event. Just nine years later, in 1979, Gina Swainson placed as first runner-up in the Miss Universe competition and went on to win Miss World — one of only two contestants to accomplish the feat.
As for the very first Miss Bermuda, her nephew Troy Symonds said her life was exciting after the competition.
She met many of the celebrities who visited the Island during that era, he remembered, saying: “She was in the middle of that world.”
Ms Simons married US serviceman Wilson Hampton in 1968 and moved away from the Island, living in many different places in the US, including Hawaii, before finally settling in Cincinnati.
Mr Symonds said she and her husband were active in their church, and during their marriage they had two children, James and Danielle. They later divorced.
Mrs Hampton was planning to spend this past Christmas in Bermuda but became ill and died on Christmas Day — the day she was due to travel here, said her nephew. She was 67 years old.
Her funeral was held on January 3, with many members of her large Bermuda family flying to Ohio to attend the service.
“She was a big personality,” he said. “Right up to the end, she was bubbly and outgoing.”
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