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A tribute to 99 years: Community icon celebrates milestone

Fiery. Passionate. Generous. Loving. Kind. These are just a handful of the words that are commonly used to describe B.J. Hetrick-Irwin but overwhelmingly, the most cited attribute among those who know and love her is, inspirational.

Turning 99 years of age today, Wednesday, June 19, Hetrick-Irwin is proving each and every day that you are never too old to make a difference - and enjoy yourself while you’re at it.

She’s the founder and leader of not just one but two local organizations dedicated to empowering women in their later years, Ms. Senior Golden Years USA (MSGY) and the Nevada Silver Tappers.

MSGY gives women over 60 the chance to cultivate poise, confidence and grace while engaging in a good-natured competition for the coveted MSGY Crown and developing lifelong bonds in the MSGY sisterhood. The Nevada Silver Tappers are a tap-dancing troupe made up of women ages 50 or better, who perform at all sorts of local events and even host their own fundraising efforts, money which is then donated to various local causes.

Through her work with these two groups, Hetrick-Irwin has touched the lives of countless others and in turn, inspired many of those around her to pursue their own philanthropic goals. She’s become a veritable paragon of the Pahrump community and one whose birthday was certainly not going to pass without notice.

On Monday, June 10 some of Hetrick-Irwin’s closest friends threw the nonagenarian a 99th birthday party and the celebration was a massive hit. Taking place at one’s of Hetrick-Irwin’s favorite local eateries, Tower Pizza, the 99th Birthday Party attracted so many celebrants that every seat in the restaurant was filled and attendees were spilling out onto the shaded patio.

Amid the frenetic fun, Hetrick-Irwin was in her element, laughing and chatting with party guests but she took a quick moment to speak with the Pahrump Valley Times. “Isn’t this amazing?” She raved as she indicated the crowd of people all assembled to celebrate the momentous occasion. “I really can’t believe it, in a little over a week I’ll be 99!”

For her birthday, another local group also wanted to do a surprise tribute to Hetrick-Irwin, as a majority of its members are former MSGY contestants. Known as the Classy Rhythmettes, the group is made up of MSGY members MaRia Apodaca-Shaddy, Mary McRory, Sharon Crisp, Saundra Fisher, Ronda Aid and Marjorie Washington-Nears, as well as Ginny Clark, who is not MSGY member but was just as delighted to wish Hetrick-Irwin a happy birthday.

Apodaca-Shaddy has known Hetrick-Irwin for over two decades now, having joined the Nevada Silver Tappers in January 2003 and competed in the very first MSGY pageant that same year.

“I became a Nevada Silver Tapper and I had never tap danced before. B.J. was a great teacher and is a great inspiration to all who meet her. She’s an outstanding woman. Happy 99th birthday B.J., with all my love and affection!” Apodaca-Shaddy enthused.

Aid, who was 2023 MSGY first runner-up, said Hetrick-Irwin has been inspiring her for quite a while now, remarking, “She is a model human and entertainer. I am honored to wish her a spectacular 99th. B.J., when I grow up, I want to be just like you!”

Crisp, a two-time Ms. Senior Golden Years contestant, met Hetrick-Irwin in early 2018 when she made the decision to compete in the MSGY pageant. “She is a mighty force to be reckoned with and is highly supportive of all her girls. I am so impressed by her and have learned so much. Have a happy 99th birthday, B.J.!” Crisp said.

McRory, 2018 MSGY second runner-up, added, “B.J. is truly an amazing woman who has inspired so many Pahrump women to be their best selves and have a positive impact on their community. I was in my first Ms. Senior Golden Years Pageant in 2018 and it was such a great experience. Guided by B.J., all the contestants were able to shine and thrive. We are all lucky to have B.J.’s wonderful friendship and leadership.”

For more information on MSGY or the Nevada Silver Tappers contact Hetrick-Irwin at 775-727-7011.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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