WINNING WORD: Fibranne
DEFINITION: Trademark for a fabric of spun rayon, often woven to resemble linen.
Her trophy gathers dust in her parents' attic. Her husband's a pretty good speller, but that doesn't matter. Dimak was in eighth grade when she won the 1990 National Spelling Bee. "It's something I've been very proud of, but when I won, I was really embarrassed. I still get shy when a friend blurts it out to a group of people. It's sunk in, but it still hasn't sunk in."
As a parochial school kid representing the Seattle Times, she says, "Other kids were out playing baseball while I went back into the school to study. I remember complaining about that." But she has fond memories of the trip with her parents to Washington, sight-seeing, barbecue, and volleyball. "I remember it raining quite a bit. The two sunny days, we were inside spelling."
"I needed a confidence booster," she says of taking the championship. "I had big glasses and braces. Winning made me feel I could do anything."She never experienced an ounce of jealousy from friends back home, who met her plane, nor did she automatically veer into a literary major at college. "English wasn't my knack. It didn't come naturally to me. But I've always had a fascination with how things work in the body. I graduated in biochemistry."
As a molecular biotechnology research technician, she threw her spelling abilities into co-authoring such papers as An Expressed-Sequence-Tag Database of the Human Prostate: Sequence Analysis of 1168 cDNA Clones. But upon marriage, she opted to follow her husband's Air Force career, moving from Oregon to Texas, North Carolina, Alaska, and Idaho. Now 30, she stays home with three young children. Told about this interview, her five-year-old asked her, "What's a Spelling Bee?" By Rita Healy
Next 1991: JOANNE LAGATTA