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Canyon Lake History: Miss Canyon Lake 1981; where is she now?

Seventeen-year-old Kathy Schlee (now Blakemore) was crowned Miss Canyon Lake 1981-1982. Photo provided by the Canyon Lake Lighthouse Magazine.

On September 19, 1981, 17-year-old Kathy Schlee had just graduated from El Modena High School, moved to Canyon Lake, and began her freshman year at Cal Poly, Pomona when she was crowned Miss Canyon Lake 1981-1982 at the third annual Miss Canyon Lake Beauty Pageant. The pageant was sponsored by members of the Woman’s Club and held in the Fireside Room at the lodge.

The contestants dressed in swimwear and formal attire and were interviewed and asked what their plans were for the future. Schlee expressed an interest in zoology and told the audience that when she was a little girl she gave snails rides on her tricycle.

The current Miss Canyon Lake, Dawn Simon, and Mrs. Canyon Lake, Elaine Sanderson, were on hand for the crowning ceremony.

Schlee, now known as Kathy Blakemore, was urged by her stepfather, Vick Knight, to enter the pageant, which he had seen announced in Canyon Lake’s weekly flyer. Shy and reluctant to do so, Blakemore was finally convinced by her sister, Meri. The family was new to Canyon Lake and Meri thought it would be a great way for her sister to meet people in the community.

A more recent photo, Kathy Blakemore and her dog, Sunny, cruise Canyon Lake. Photo provided by Kathy Blakemore.

Modeling the gown she had worn to her high school prom and the bathing suit she and her mother, Carolyn Knight, had purchased in Palm Springs, Blakemore was a favorite of the audience — and the judges.

Blakemore arrived home that night to find a sign above the front door that read, “Home of Miss Canyon Lake.” More than 20 friends gathered for a champagne toast and cake, which was decorated with the message, “Kathy, you’re Miss America to us.”

The next morning, Blakemore did some last-minute packing and prepared for her trip to Pomona and a new life on campus. She hung her ribbon and crown on her bedroom wall but took with her the roses she was presented with the night before.

Blakemore spent her first week at Cal Poly listening to lectures, attending labs, and writing thank-you notes to the many merchants who generously donated gifts to the new Miss Canyon Lake. In return, Blakemore represented the community and its businesses at functions throughout her reigning year.

Thirty-two years after Kathy Blakemore was crowned Miss Canyon Lake, her daughter, Carlee, was crowned Miss Canyon Lake. Carlee is pictured with Jon Chiusano, her then-boyfriend (now husband). Photo provided by Kathy Blakemore.

Blakemore graduated from Cal Poly in 1985. In 1987, she began a career teaching science in the Lake Elsinore School District. Today, Blakemore teaches science at Elsinore Middle School in the same classroom she’s taught in since 1987. She hopes to retire in about three years. Blakemore, who still resides in Canyon Lake, has taught science to numerous Canyon Lake kids through the years. “I feel very lucky to live in such a beautiful community and to be able to teach kids a subject that I’m so passionate about,” Blakemore said.

In 2013, 32 years after Blakemore was crowned Miss Canyon Lake, her daughter, Carlee, was crowned Miss Canyon Lake. Carlee gave birth to her first child in October 2021 and will be graduating from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in June.

“Serving as Miss Canyon Lake seems like a lifetime ago,” Blakemore said. “It was an honor to represent my community and a fun thing to share with my daughter when she was crowned 32 years later. It’s something that we’ll share and remember fondly forever.”

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