Hebe McKenzie may not have had children of her own but that did not stop her from raising others.
Celebrating her 90th birthday at the Bodden Town seniors centre the lively Ms McKenzie was not short of kisses, hugs, well-wishes and gifts as family, friends and visitors congratulated her on her long years.
The determined lady, who was born in Breakers, to Anisette Webster, credits her long life to hard work, praising God and no worry.
A lover of Caymanian favourite dishes, she loves: fish cooked in coconut milk, cooked her way, fried fish, lobster, and stew conch with flattened dumplings called sea pie even stew beef which she has no problem eating. ‘I used to and still can cook these dishes for myself but because of my eye sight my family doesn’t want me around the stove. Because of that they have a helper who takes care of the cooking and cleaning. But I still do a lot of things myself like bathing, clearing the bush from the yard and get around the house just fine. I feel no pain.’
Ms McKenzie was born in Breakers after a hurricane in 1917 which washed through her community and the home she shared with her mother. She said her mother fled to another home for refuge during the hurricane and that is where she was born four days later.
As a little girl growing up Ms McKenzie attended a little school house in Bodden Town and later on in years twisted rope for a living which she learnt from her mother.
‘I had to go out early in morning and cut green thatch tops, tie them together to put in the sun to dry so they could be twisted into the rope,’ she said. After a number of years she learnt how to plait thatch to make baskets to sell.
She later went to work for the Lees for 15 years cleaning and washing. When they returned to the US she spent the time raising the children of Clinton Whittaker who she had also raised when his mother died.
‘Clinton knew no other mother but me,’ she said. ‘His mother died when he was five years old and since that time I took him in my care. He loves me dearly and calls me Baba,’ said Ms McKenzie.
‘I remember when I was a little girl I would walk to Bodden Town to attend the Webster Memorial Church because there was no church in Breakers.
‘I asked the Lord to forgive me of my sins. Don’t care how young you are you have sins of some kind. Because your very thoughts are sin,’ she said.
‘I gave my heart to the Lord and lived as close to him as I knew how and served him the best way I could.’