As Glendale’s hospitals welcomed their first babies of 2018 on New Year’s Day, Anita Johnson Mackey — a resident of Scholl Canyon Estates retirement community in Glendale — turned 104 years old.
Johnson Mackey, who moved into Scholl Canyon Estates as its sixth resident eight years ago, had a lunchtime birthday celebration on Thursday as she was joined by a two visiting family members.
Estates staff member Marybeth Maloney Thicke also presented Johnson Mackey with a certificate from Hawthorne Retirement Group, the company that owns the facility, as well as a certificate from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
“We love you dearly, and you are a ray of sunshine here at Scholl [Canyon Estates],” Maloney Thicke said.
Born in 1914, Johnson Mackey is originally from Riverside but calls Santa Barbara home, as it’s where she spent the most time when she wasn’t earning advanced degrees at the University of Redlands and later the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration.
Johnson Mackey was raised mostly by her sisters and father, a descendant of U.S. President Andrew Johnson, because she lost her mother when she was 10 years old. They lived in Riverside.
She said because her father had fair skin and blue eyes, he was able to listen discreetly to the opinions of white people about black people. He then shared with her what he heard in the “real world.”
She recalled learning that black people were not welcome at Fairmount Park and were segregated to a different pool at Lincoln Park.
“I never learned to swim because I wasn’t going to go to a segregated pool,” she said
At 23, Johnson Mackey joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church and, more than 80 years later, she’s still active at a nearby Glendale location.
“I like it because they are not only interested in making it into the Kingdom. They’re interested in leading a good life while you’re here,” she said.
Missions with the church and her 49-year marriage to her husband, Frank Johnson, took Johnson Mackey to more than 100 countries. She said places in northern Europe, such as Norway, Sweden and Denmark, were her favorites.
For 30 years, until her retirement in 1976, she made a living as a medical social worker for the Veterans Administration, visiting homes to see what veterans needed and that they were under proper medical care.
“Everything that a veteran was entitled to, I [saw] that they got it,” she said. “I was personally interested in each veteran.”
As a tri-county supervisor, she covered Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties.
Johnson Mackey had advice she often shares after living more than a century.