Oregon office manager wins `Survivor 4' contest and a million bucks to go with it

Monday, May 20th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Vecepia ``Vee'' Towery had to wait five months after coming home to find out, it was well worth the wait: She won the grueling ``Survivor: Marquesas'' contest and the $1 million prize.

Towery, a 36-year-old office manager from Portland, Ore., beat Neleh Dennis, a 21-year-old psychology student from Layton, Utah., after the parchment ballots were tallied live at the conclusion of CBS' ``Survivor 4'' Sunday night.

In an interview after the telecast, Towery said she had arrived in the South Pacific's Marquesas Islands last November ready for an early departure, with a parting speech in hand. ``It's important to be humble. But I had the feeling that God would lead me (to victory), and he did.''

With the money, Towery plans to finish work on the home she and her new husband have been renovating, and to invest the rest _ but all that will come after ``tithes and offerings to my father,'' she said.

In contrast to ``Survivor'' alumni who sought to prolong their celebrity, she said she now expects to resume her former life. But she isn't shutting the door to staying in the public eye: ``I'll be open-minded to whatever might come my way.''

What makes her most proud? Being the first black contestant to win.

This is also the first ``Survivor'' where women emerged as the two finalists. Both were outspoken in their Christian faith during the series, and were condemned by some rivals as ``Bible-thumpers.''

The final 4-3 vote was made by a jury of seven former ``Survivor: Marquesas'' castaways, one of whom, Tammy Leitner, was less than complimentary to the finalists.

``You beat me at my own game,'' she said at a tribal council before the votes were cast. ``You lied better than I did, you manipulated better than I did and you deceived everybody better than I did. So congratulations.''

After the winner was announced, all 16 survivors rehashed their adventures during a live ``reunion special'' from New York's Central Park.

``We have traveled from the most remote island in the world to the greatest island in the world,'' said ``Survivor'' host Jeff Probst.

The contestants were left with minimal supplies and a TV production crew on Nuku Hiva, part of Tahiti's Marquesas islands, about halfway between Los Angeles and Sydney, Australia. They began the 39-day adventure as two tribes of eight players each. One player was voted off every three days by the other contestants.

Though hardly the ratings or cultural blockbuster of the original ``Survivor,'' which aired during the summer of 2000, the weekly ``Survivor: Marquesas'' was the eighth-rated series during the 2001-02 season.

A fifth ``Survivor'' series, set in Thailand, is scheduled for this fall.