UpSide Classic: Winners meet Grace
Royal treatment. This article originally appeared in the Daily News on April 1, 1982.
This article originally appeared in the Daily News on April 1, 1982.
It happened on the way to the ladies’ room.
Sister Rose Agnes and Libby Magness Weisberg, who both had won a “Night with Grace Kelly” in the Daily News contest, arrived at the gala at the Annenberg Center last night amid the klieg lights and shouts from bystanders.
“Who are you?” the onlookers yelled. “Who are you?”
But it seemed that nearly everyone knew.
Sister, who teaches at Archbishop Ryan Memorial School for the Deaf in Powelton, and Weisberg of Oxford Circle, who wrote her 24-word entry on a shell, arrived at the Annenberg Center in West Philadelphia in a chauffeur-driven black Cadillac limousine.
The TV lights went on, and they were interviewed by Channel 3′s Walt Hunter.
The station’s manager, Pat Polillo introduced himself. So did a professor from Duquesne University.
Inside, guests at the $150-a-head black-tie gala spotted them, came over and introduced themselves.
“Oh, you must be the winners," everyone said.
But it was when Weisberg said she was thirsty and Sister Rose Agnes decided to accompany her to the ladies’ room that it happened.
They saw Grace Kelly.
And she recognized them.
“I read about you in the Daily News,” Princess Grace said to Sister Rose Agnes, “and I’m very glad you won.”
She asked about the deaf children — how many were there, how old were they, had they been deaf from birth — and then shook hands with Weisberg.
“I hope both of you have an enjoyable evening,” said the lady “whose charm and beauty have not been diminished by the sands of time," in the words on Weisberg’s shell.
Afterward, the two women spilled into the ladies’ room giggling and crying,
“We met her! We met her!”
Princess Grace’s hand “was so warm," marveled Sister. “It was so wonderful.”
“I didn’t feel like I was shaking hands with the princess,” said Weisberg. “I was completely comfortable. It was not at all what I thought it would be.”
Sister Rose Agnes couldn’t get over how fortunate they had been that Libby Weisberg had been thirsty at that moment.
Their luck — or whatever it was — was definitely holding.
After all, Sister Rose Agnes’ entry was sent with a coupon from a borrowed Daily News. The sisters don’t subscribe. A relative had taken the paper for six weeks to help a deaf child who was selling it.
Sister had seen the paper and decided to enter the contest, which asked for essays, in 25 words or less, about why she wanted to spend a night with Grace.
“Since the days of Grace’s courtship with the Prince of Monaco," she wrote, “I have been an interested fan of Her Serene Highness."
“What a joy it would be for me as a teacher of deaf children to share my experience with my class and tell them that I really saw, spoke and touched a live princess.”
"My children find a ‘princess’ only in their library books.”
The entries were chosen from more than 1,500 received by the Daily News.
And Sister Rose Agnes promises that she'll subscribe to the paper.
Weisberg’s family — daughter Ruth is with Shadow Traffic — had presented her with an orchid corsage to dress up the red outfit that she had originally bought for a bar mitzvah. They escorted her to the limousine.
When the limo arrived at the convent on Spring Garden Street, several nuns in their black habits — accompanied by a priest — ran out to the sidewalk, looking into the limousine windows. They wanted to meet Libby, they said.
Then Sister Rose Agnes, escorted by other nuns, came out. Libby got out of the car and the two women, who had never met before, hugged and kissed.
"I love you,” said Sister Rose Agnes to Weisberg, who had called Sister Rose Agnes Tuesday evening.
“I feel I’ve known Libby all my life,” said the nun.
On the ride to the Annenberg Center, the two women talked about Grace and how excited they were. Sister Rose Agnes remembered that the last time she had ever ridden in a limousine was just before she had entered the convent in 1944. There had been a funeral.
After the film clips and the tributes, there was a rush for the food.
Sister Rose Agnes, with Weisberg, proceeded to introduce herself to Jimmy Stewart.
Then Sister went up to Bob Hope and told him that she loves him. Could she kiss him? she wondered. Then she did.
“We’re the two freebies,” said Sister to Hope, explaining how they had won the chance to be here.
"What a wonderful thing for the newspaper to do,” said Hope.
And then, it was over. The chauffeur got behind the wheel, the women got into the backseat, and the car pulled away. The Cadillac did not turn into a pumpkin.
UPdate: Grace Kelly died on Sept. 14, 1982, from injuries suffered in a car accident. She was 52. The Daily News reached out to Sister Rose Agnes that day to ask her reaction. Agnes said the memories of that night were with her when she learned of the Philadelphia native’s death in Monaco. “I can still see her face. She was just a model for all women,” the Roman Catholic nun said. “[After hearing the news of her death] I went to the chapel and I just thanked the Lord for letting me have that wonderful experience."