CHEYENNE, Wyo. — An old case of sibling rivalry could spell trouble at this year’s AARP National Spelling Bee, as four siblings who were raised with more books than toys in their home gather for what they say will be more than a family reunion.
Half a century after the three sisters and their brother bragged about their grades by posting them on the refrigerator, they’re about to find out who among them is the best speller.
“Our parents actually were the ones who set the bar high. They were both teachers. Their expectations were that we would do as well as possible, period,” said 67-year-old Joan Risley, of Scottsdale, oldest of the four.
Her sister, Prudence Hopkins, 57, of Spotsylvania, Va., remembers things a bit differently: It was Joan who set the bar so high by earning her master’s degree at 20.
“My sister Joan being the oldest and the most responsible and blah, blah, blah. You know, she was valedictorian, and this and that,” said Hopkins, a hospital chaplain. “Down the line, the expectation was we’d all achieve.”
This will be the first meeting of all four Risley children since their father’s funeral in 2003.
The AARP bee is open to anyone age 50 and older.
More than 50 competitors from 24 states have signed up for the 16th annual senior bee Saturday at the Little America resort in Cheyenne.
Joining Risley and Hopkins in Cheyenne will be their brother, Roger Risley, 62, of Port Townsend, Wash.; and sister, Chris Wagner, 60, of Sacramento, Calif.
“We’ve even had a divorced couple compete before. But this is the first time we’ve had essentially a family reunion at the bee,” said Joanne Mai, a Wyoming AARP spokeswoman. “I’m not sure what sparked this family affair phenomenon, but we’re glad to have it.”