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ISLAND HISTORY: Dorothy Leilani Ellis was Miss Hawai‘i of 1953

Born on Kaua‘i, Dorothy Leilani Ellis (1937-2007) was the youngest of six children of former Kaua‘i County Chairman William Ellis and Maria Pihaleo Ellis.

She was called Baby by members of her family, but Dot, Dotty or Dorothy by her friends, and all of her siblings were high school student body presidents.

During her high school years, she was song leader at Kamehameha School for Girls in her sophomore year, and again in her senior year at Kaua‘i High School.

She had recently graduated from Kaua‘i High School in June 1953, when she qualified for the Miss Hawai‘i of 1953 competition by being crowned Princess Mokihana (the forerunner of Miss Kaua‘i) in a popularity contest sponsored by the Kaua‘i Junior Chamber of Commerce.

Later that month, she was also crowned Miss Hawai‘i 1953 at the 49th State Fair in Honolulu, the first candidate from a neighbor island to win the Miss Hawai‘i title.

During the Miss Hawai‘i competition, a number of island girls were judged on talent, personality, poise, beauty and figure.

Dorothy’s hula was outstanding for its grace.

And, when she was asked if she had any idea she’d win, she said no.

She also said she had no boyfriend, but thought she’d “have time for such things later.”

When questioned about her future plans, she replied that she hoped to study merchandising on the mainland and become a buyer.

Winning the Miss Hawai‘i competition made her eligible to represent the Territory of Hawai‘i in the Miss America Pageant of 1954 held in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

In addition to a free round-trip ticket to Atlantic City, Dorothy received a trophy, a sterling silver set, clothing required for the trip, luggage, sports wear, a course in poise and personality, and the opportunity to win some of the $26,000 worth of scholarships being offered at the Miss America Pageant.

Following the Miss America competition, Dorothy attended Bryant College in Connecticut.

Years later, she retired from the County of Kaua‘i.

She and her husband, Frank Zeffiro, had three children: Frank, William, and Winona Zeffiro.
Source: The Garden Island

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