"If I'm at the seashore, I walk the beach," says Fletcher, 68, of Las Vegas, who writes poetry. "Counting my blessings with each step I take — reflecting on the inspirational thoughts that bubble up — my soul is restored."
A passion for movement began when she was a toddler on stage. Her parents danced internationally: USO, vaudeville and nightclubs. On a trip to New York from Asheville, N.C., she marveled at the Rockettes she saw as a teenager. "Oh my golly, Daddy," she exclaimed. "I want to do that."
Fletcher finished high school in three years so she could audition for the Rockettes. She won the Miss Asheville pageant and boarded a train to New York, planning to spend the crown's $500 scholarship on dance lessons.
Several weeks later, she was hired as a Rockette replacement and later successfully re-auditioned to land a permanent spot. Fletcher stayed for seven months before seeking the Miss America crown.
Fletcher has supported a nonprofit network for children's hospitals, animal activist groups and a North Carolina music boarding school. Through e-mails and phone calls, she stays in touch with fellow Rockettes.
Grantham sums up the bond: "Away from home, we grew up together. We went on our first dates together, bought our first clothes on our own and danced on the great stage. … That was the most rarefied experience, and it made us true sister Rockettes forever."
Susan Kreimer is a writer in New York.