Anita Johnson Mackey

Anita Johnson Mackey celebrated her 100th birthday today at Scholl Canyon Estates with a party in Glendale on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. (Raul Roa / Staff Photographer / January 1, 2014)

When Anita Johnson Mackey of Glendale looks back on the 100 years she’s lived, she can hardly believe how fast the time has flown by, and feels blessed to have lived it.

“How do I account for this?” she said of turning 100, and gives much credit to her father and the values he instilled in her, grateful he continued to care for her after her mother died during childbirth of a sibling when Mackey was 10 years old.

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For the record: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the church in which Anita Mackey is active.

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Mackey, who is of European and African American descent, grew up in a predominately white neighborhood, often treated alongside her siblings with cruelty by the local white children, who she said poisoned her family’s dog.

But she learned to never hold anger toward others, and said she credits those early experiences for her always being sensitive to other people.

For nearly 30 years, she worked as a social worker for the Veterans’ Administration, gaining early experience assisting temporarily ill veterans and their families for the Red Cross during World War II.

Shortly after graduating from the University of Redlands, she married her husband, Harvey, who was 40 years old when she was 23. She tied the knot with him, even though friends and family advised her that he was too old for her.

They lived in Chicago before returning to Southern California, where she has remained for most of her life.

Of the biggest changes she’s seen over her lifetime, she said the civil rights movement was the most significant. As many were preparing to participate in the historic March on Washington, D.C., Mackey said she told her husband that she wanted to go, too.

But her husband, whose own father was once a slave, advised her to stay in Chicago.

“He said, ‘I don’t want you to go. They’ll kill you, and I need you,’” she said — and she respected his wishes.

Over the years, she has stuck to a largely vegetarian diet and doesn’t have high blood pressure.

However, she joked that she’s “not too sure I haven’t given it to other people.”

Mackey, who lives in the Scholl Canyon Estates, is also active in the Seventh-day Adventist Church and said faith has played a large part in her life.

“You have to have a faith to live by,” she said, and has also been loyal to other beliefs, including never to lie, worry or keep up with the Joneses.

When problems arise, she asks herself, “What can I do about it?” and “Where do I get started?”

Ultimately, she said, “Life is a battle and a march.”

Mackey and her husband, who passed away in 1986, never had children, but became close with two students from Nigeria that they sponsored.

On Wednesday, one of them — Alexander Adekanmbi — was planning to celebrate with her in Glendale.

When a fellow senior wished her a happy birthday on Tuesday, she smiled and said, “I do not know where the 100 years have gone.”

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Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.


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