Bet he can use that in a sentence.
Bob Willford, a trainer in the Management Information Systems Department, made it to the regional spelling contest in Round Lake before getting knocked out.
Bob Willford studies words. He translates computer jargon for procedural manuals. He scans particle physics articles in Fermilab Today. He hears ethnic terms from foreign scientists at the laboratory. Still, the word "jodhpurs" caught him off guard, knocking him out of the running for the first statewide senior spelling bee at the Illinois State Fair.
In his defense, the term for the pants that horse-racing jockeys wear doesn't come up much at Fermilab, and the word stood out from others at the contest.
"Most of the words were ordinary or everyday words," he said. "I put the 'h' in the wrong place."
Willford, 62, has learned to recognize letter pairing patterns and visualize the shape of words on a page, giving him clues to the spelling. Much of that learning comes from his job as a trainer in the Management Information Systems Department, but some also comes from doing grid crossword puzzles with his wife.
"Anything that keeps the mind active, at any age, is fantastic," he said.
To get to the regional spelling contest in Round Lake last month, Willford endured a heated 14-round showdown in Lombard where he took the prize with the word "ridiculous." At the regional he placed third, the same as his last spelling bee battle in eighth grade, the Missouri state contest.
"It was just as much fun, just different ages," he said. "I felt a little less edgy, a little less nervous. I'm a training manager so I'm used to speaking in front of people."
Does he use any tricks?
"Essentially a deep breath and a smile works for me," he said.
Will he compete again next year?
"You bet," he said. "There's always next year. That's what the (Chicago) Cubs always say and it seems to work for them.."
-- Tona Kunz