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03/24/2010

Colleen Kay Hutchins, Miss America 1952, dies at 83 [Updated]

March 24, 2010 |  1:33 pm

Missamerica

Colleen Kay Hutchins, 83, an Arcadia native who was crowned Miss America of 1952, died early Wednesday at her home in Newport Beach, the Associated Press reported.

Her son Kiki Vandeweghe, the interim coach and general manager of the New Jersey Nets, said his mother died after being sick for about six months. He did not give details about her illness.

[For the record, March 26: This post should have referred to Hutchins by her married name, Colleen Hutchins Vandeweghe. Also, in addition to Kiki Vandeweghe and Tauna Vandeweghe, her other children are Heather Shannon and Bruk Vandeweghe.]

Hutchins, who graduated from the University of Utah, competed in the national beauty pageant as Miss Utah. She had grown up in Arcadia and was an accomplished swimmer who also studied acting at the Pasadena Playhouse.

"I don’t know how it happened," the blond 25-year-old told reporters after winning the Miss America crown. "I thought I was too darned tall."

She was 5 feet 10 inches tall, and height ran in the family. Her brother Mel was a 6-foot-6 forward-center in the NBA.

During her reign as Miss America, she went to a New York Knicks basketball game and met Ernie Vandeweghe, a guard-forward on the team. They married in 1953 and, after she had a small part in a Broadway revue, she decided to leave the public spotlight.

"When I married Ernie, it all seemed so meaningless," she told People magazine in 2000.

She is survived by her husband and four children, including daughter Tauna Vandeweghe, a U.S. Olympian in swimming and volleyball.

Click here to see a story that ran in The Times four days after Hutchins was named Miss America, in which she gives advice to young women about how to be beautiful.

-- Claire Noland

Photo: Colleen Kay Hutchins, who was crowned Miss America on Sept. 8, 1951. Credit: Associated Press

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