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Politics

Miss America’s Mom, Tassie Cantrell, Shares her Joy With TNH Readers

 

NEW YORK – “It was wonderful from start to finish…It was very exciting. We were sitting on the edge of our seats” Tassie Cantrell, Miss America’s mom, told The National Herald about the experience in Atlantic City that culminated in Betty Cantrell being crowned Miss America 2015.

The winner’s mother also had a heartfelt appreciation for all the contestants, saying  “of course there were 51 other beautiful and talented girls, but I was hoping for the best for one of them.”

The whole process was amazing for the family because Betty had not begun to compete until a few years ago. “A friend heard Betty sing and told us Betty could get scholarship money.”

Betty has been singing, acting and dancing her whole life – but she has been trained for musical theater and opera, so she is a quadruple threat.

“Her dream is to perform on Broadway, but musical theater conservatory is very expensive, so the idea of getting scholarship money for the pageant was how it all started,” Tassie told TNH.

The decision was an auspicious one from the start. “The first pageant she did, someone came up to me and said ‘I don’t know you, I have no reason to tell you this, but I’m looking at your daughter and I am telling you she has what it takes to go all the way.”

They encouraged her to do everything she could with her ability “and let God handle the rest…it was such a blessing – oh my God.”

Faith and spirituality is very important to the family  –  Michael Cantrell became Orthodox – and all the children sang in the choir of the Church of the Holy Cross in Macon, GA. “They called us the Von Trapp family. They know all the hymns in Greek,” Tassie said.

Betty studied classical ballet, jazz, tap and modern dance for eight years, but in high school, once her classical singing training began at age 14, she  had to pull away a bit from dance. She loves dancing, but her passion was acting and singing and by then her schedule had become too demanding.

And the recognition that validated her dreams began to accumulate. She won her region and state’s literary award, and the Golden Eagle Award for music – for which she competed against singers and instrumentalists.

In college, Betty won the National Association of Teachers of Theater awards for both classical and musical theater – an unprecedented feat.

“She can sing the phone book. Honest to God that girl can sing anything,” he proud mother declared.

Talent runs in abundance among the Cantrells. Tassie preferred to talk of their children, but the parents built the Cantrell Center for Physical Therapy, Wellness, and Sports Medicine, into a highly-respected and successful business.

Their eldest son Michael sings and is also pursuing a career in acting and their youngest, Sophia, is also multitalented, but she excels in soccer.

Tassie’s parents Baciliky and Stavros were born in Atlanta, GA and Waterbury, CT respectively; the earlier generation emigrated from Greece.

“My yiayia on my father’s side was from Vouliotis on the island of Samos and my pappou was from Plomari on Lesbos…My yiayia on my mother’s side is from Marathokampos on Samos, and my grandfather was from Tripolis,” Tassie said, brimming now with regional pride.

When her mother died of cancer, Tassie went to live with her grandparents when she was eight.

“I always said if I had a little girl I would name her Baciliky and call her Betty after my mom.

Tassie is proud to speak Greek, which she polished growing up with her grandparents, who permitted only Greek at home.

“I’m not super fluent, but I can hold my own. I just did an interview in Greek…We spoke Greek all the time and when I had children I tried to speak Greek to them all the time too. They know a few words but can understand more than they can speak.”

Tassie and Mike met as students at the University of Georgia, where they received bachelor’s degrees in exercise physiology and nutrition, respectively. They were married in 1984 after Mike finished three years of active duty in the Army.

They both earned master’s degrees in physical therapy at Emory University and in 1992 they moved to Warner Robins, GA, where Mike spend most of his childhood years and opened the Center.

Mike’s family settled in Warner Robins after his father retired from the military and began to work at Robins Air Force Base.

Mike continues to practice physical therapy and is a faculty member of the Postural Restoration Institute (PRI).  He travels all over the United States and now England, teaching PRI treatment techniques to other physical therapists.

The family have been active members of Holy Cross in Macon, GA since they moved there in 1992.

A trip to Greece is now on the agenda.

“I want to take the kids to Greece now so badly,” she told TNH before excusing herself to run an errand. I have to bring back the car Betty won as Miss Georgia. The new Miss Georgia wants it.”

 

 

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