"Bee-lievers" Win Regional Spelling Bee, Prepare to Represent Heritage Woods of Rockford at State

Dorie (L) and Nita (R) at Bee-lievers Celebration

ROCKFORD (WIFR) – A week after dominating a regional spelling bee for residents who live in affordable assisted living communities, Dorie Johnson has a lot to celebrate: she just celebrated her 90th birthday and will compete in the state tournament with her spelling partner next month.

“I studied the words every night,” said Johnson, from her home in Heritage Woods of Rockford. “I practiced them by myself.

My daughter quizzed me. A few nights, I’d even wake up out of my sleep, thinking of how to spell words.”

Her dedication and partnership with fellow Heritage Woods resident Nita Mahan earned them a Gold Medal in the Illinois Supportive Living Spelling Bee Regional Finals. The Bee-lievers team will move onto the state tournament May 14 -15 at the Decatur Hotel and Conference Center in Decatur, Ill.

“This has been one of the most exciting things I’ve done in my life. Who would have thought I’d win a spelling bee – at 84?”

Mahan said, as she flipped through dozens of pages she’s reviewing to prepare for the tournament.

Each night, the former teacher will study for at least an hour. She’ll say the word, break it down into syllables, look up the definition and use it in a sentence. Then, she’ll spell it. There are hundreds of words – some that she’s never seen before – from the notoriously tough Scripps Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

“These words are much harder than last time. We’re going to give it our best try,” said Johnson, who planned to study after her birthday celebration tonight. “We have an amazing amount of pride in being able to represent Heritage Woods of Rockford and to know that we can think so clearly and spell so well against great competition.”

More than 100 teams across the state entered the spelling contest, which is sponsored by the Affordable Assisted Living Coalition. Only 12 teams will compete at the state tournament.

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