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McKenzie lives a busy life at 93

February 29, 2012
By MEL TOADVINE ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Rhoda McKenzie is one of those women who says she's so busy that she can hardly believe she has just turned 93 years of age. And to celebrate the occasion, some 40 or more friends and neighbors filled up her living room at her home in Lehigh.

"Feb. 3 was my actual birthday and everyone came and brought me flowers and cards. I really enjoyed it because these people are not only my friends, but they are like family," she said.

McKenzie is Jamaican and came to the U.S. by way of London, England, and called those days "some of the best" in her long rich and interesting life.

She did volunteer community work there and as a leader in the British West Indies Association, she got to meet the Duke of Kent at the time. And while there she met other members of the Royal Family. In the UK, she owned an investment business in real estate and also owned three rentals in London.

"My first job in the UK was with the queen's dress maker. I can sew and make clothes, too" she said proudly.

"You can say I was also a milliner and made hats when I first lived in Jamaica. Back there I did bookkeeping and teaching. I had to make a living," she smiled.

She even once owned a boutique in Verre in Clarendon in Jamaica.

Today at 93, McKenzie can tell you stories of an interesting life. She is an award winning artist, having once belonged to the now defunct Lehigh Art League.

But don't stop there about her creative ways. She is also an accomplished author.

"I love writing and always have. I keep a notebook by my bedside to write down ideas that come to me and also my dreams," McKenzie said. "Writing is my therapy."

She lives alone today, but has plenty of people who look in on her or call her every day. She has no children, but friends make up for family, she says.

"My neighbors all around me are my friends and family. They all treat me so well that I love them all," she said.

People like Jeff Jones, who lives nearby once knocked on her door and asked if he could cut a mango tree that had fallen on my home. Then there was another time when Bob Mazza cut back a fruit tree that had also fallen on her home. Both episodes occurred during hurricanes.

"Bob Mazza and his wife, Bonnie keep in touch with me. They are some of the best friends I have," she said.

Neighbor Corry and Renne Dombroski are also close friends.

"Cory calls me his grandma and when they leave on a holiday, they always check on me before they leave," she said.

McKenzie left England and moved to New Jersey and in 1988, decided to move Lehigh Acres for health reasons.

She lives in a comfortable home and says he really does not want to live in an assisted living complex at her age.

"I am so busy here," she laughed.

Beautiful oil paintings, all done by McKenzie, hang on the walls of her home and all together, there may be a hundred paintings, most of which are safely stored with cloth over them in a couple of rooms.

When she came to Lehigh in 1988, the community was nothing like it is today and she loved it, she said.

"The houses just multiplied and multiplied. I just wish they would stop building. When there are homes that have not been sold sitting there empty, why build more," she said.

Of the books she has authored, the latest is Voices Whispers. Add that to two books of poetry and she has published nine books. The book is $35 and can be purchased by calling her at 239-369-1957. She calls it a "fictional biography" about her own life. She also says writing is therapy for her.

While in the UK, McKenzie said she attended a few colleges and universities. She is always learning and is quite outspoken when it comes to politics.

She watches TV news and reads to keep up with what is going on in the world and offered some controversial ideas for those who want to bring about revolutions and even warned the president to be cautious before he takes America's youth into war.

No way does Rhoda McKenzie look or act 93. Many would believe she is decades younger. Her memory is sharp and she can recall events in history throughout her life. And if you have time to listen, she can come up with a lot of interesting things she has accomplished and important people she has met.

"No health problems really. I take meds for high blood pressure, but that is about all," she said.

And as for her religious faith, McKenzie, who is Roman Catholic, ways she uses the Rosaries and reads the Bible daily and thanks God for yet another day.

But living to 100 doesn't really concern her.

"It can be worrisome. I just want to live as long as God wants me to live. Every day I pray for another good day," she said.

She is quick to tell you that she doesn't believe Lehigh should incorporate because of what she calls the expenses of a city.

While she loves America, she says there is one thing she would have loved to happen.

"I guess it would be to go home to Jamaica. I have been back four times. It was my home many years ago. I am a citizen of the U.S. now though and love this country," she said.

"I enjoy life, people, and staying busy all the time," she laughed. "That's what keeps me going."



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