BELVEDERE -- Leon and LaNelle Ishmael met on the road and recently were named Family Campers & RVers International Retiree King and Queen.
The Belvedere couple met in March 2011 at the retiree rally in Texas and married three months later in June.
“She appealed to me as a very interesting person, a very outgoing person, somebody that you could have fun with. And I knew she camped and I camped, so we had that in common. And I knew we could travel,” Leon said of why he asked LaNelle to be his wife.
He added that he kept using up all of his cellphone minutes, so he knew he’d have to move to South Carolina from his home state of Iowa.
LaNelle said they are the first king and queen nominated from South Carolina since 2004. Georgia also hasn’t had one in a while, she said.
Each state chooses a couple to represent it in the election.
The couple paraded around at the 2012 retiree rally held March 13-18 at the North Florida Fairgrounds in Tallahassee, Fla. doing different things to elicit votes.
“I cried,” she said, when they were announced king and queen. “It feels good to know that I had that many people like me enough to vote and elect me for this.”
They will spend a lot of time in the next several months traveling to campgrounds they were invited to because of their win.
“We’ve already gotten invitations from seven states,” she said. They are Alabama, Florida, Georgia, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Beginning in June, they will spend three months at a time traveling. As king and queen, they will travel as ambassadors for the organization and hope to get others interested in joining, she said.
“I’m happy about it,” Leon said. “I’m ready to go to Canada and represent the retirees.”
Perks of the organization include national camp adventures and member discounts at campgrounds. LaNelle said she simply enjoys the socialization aspect and meeting people from different parts of the country.
Members don’t have to have motor homes or RVs, she said. Tents and other forms of camping are welcome.
LaNelle said she has been camping almost all of her life. Both she and Leon are lifetime members of FCRV. They travel in a 36-foot Astoria that has tile floors — perfect for her four-legged companion, Marley.
“It’s like having a child with you,” she said of traveling with her beagle.
LaNelle grew up in Augusta and has lived in the area for 66 years. She retired from the Aiken County school system after 25 years of teaching. Leon retired as a gunnery sergeant after 20 years with the Marines and 22 years with the U.S. Postal Service.
The pair are also known for their silly sides as Sunshine and Tex. They do clowning as a ministry and, during the winter, they spent two months in Texas cheering up residents at a nursing rehabilitation center.
“I do balloons and he makes poodle dogs out of Mardi Gras beads, and people just love them,” she said.
Both are members of Campers on Mission.
The tradition of naming an international king and queen began in 1973, according to a news release. For more information about the organization, visit www.fcrv.org.