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To bee, or not to bee? Just two seniors spell it out in Mokena

Eugene DurbFrankfort reacts as he realizes how he mispelled word as eventual winner Laurane Caracci Mokenspells same word 'Gymnast' correctly

Eugene Durbin, of Frankfort, reacts as he realizes how he mispelled a word as eventual winner Laurane Caracci, of Mokena, spells the same word, "Gymnast," correctly during a Senior Spelling Bee in the administration center at the Mokena Park District in Mokena, Illinois, Tuesday, May 7, 2013. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 9, 2013 6:26AM



In less than 10 minutes and fewer than 30 words, Mokena’s first Senior Spelling Bee was over.

Laurane — yes, that’s spelled correctly — Caracci was declared the winner.

She appeared not the least bit j-i-t-t-e-r-y, and she correctly spelled that word to win it. Neither was she intimidated by the fact that her sole opponent, Eugene Durbin, of Frankfort, brought in his own fan club, which outnumbered the contestants.

Then again, every group there outnumbered the two contestants in this Tuesday afternoon event. There were four Mokena Park District staffers, three media members and three in the audience.

“I just came for the fun of it,” said Caracci, of Mokena. “I would have liked a little more competition — maybe six or eight of us.”

She would not have found that in Midlothian. The senior spelling bee at the library there was cancelled due to a lack of interest.

The free event in Mokena was open to anyone 50 and older, and emphasized the fun of recapturing those lost spelling skills.

Folks tried in vain to entice Durbin’s wife Diann and his friends Jim and Judy Frye to enter.

“You never heard him spell,” Judy said of Jim. And Diann insisted that her husband was the better speller. But they all knew how to spell “gymnast,” and emitted little groans when Durbin tripped over that word by spelling it with a “j” instead of a “g.”

He knew instantly that he had erred.

“Oh, wow. That was an easy word,” he lamented.

“Nice job — j-o-b,” Jim Frye said teasingly.

Caracci didn’t hesitate to spell “gymnast” correctly, and after spelling “jittery,” she was declared the winner.

She didn’t even prepare for the event, unlike Durbin, who had been perusing the dictionary and studying lists of words up to the last minute.

“Oh, my goodness. It’s been 50 years since I was in a spelling bee,” he said.

There were no losers, here, however, since this competition was part of the Illinois State Senior Spelling Bee. The top two finishers — in this case both Caracci and Durbin — advance to the regional bee, to be held June 10 at the Dundee Township Park District in Carpentersville.

The top spellers in that contest advance to the state finals Aug. 12 at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield.

Erin Cortilet, the park district’s special events coordinator, plans to hold the senior bee again next year, and hopefully attract more participants.

“At least you had the courage to enter,” Diann Durbin told her second-place spouse as she handed him another prize — a gift-wrapped box of Fannie May t-u-r-t-l-e-s.



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