A 91-year-old Lafayette mother of three says quitting school in the fifth grade hasn’t held her back. She took life by the horns and earned her high school diploma. Imelda McKinley was 58-years-old then.
McKinley is a woman who knows where she’s been and prepares for where she’s going. McKinley is one of eight children.
She was born in Carencro. “We got three who are younger than I am. I’m the fourth one then there’s the older crowd,” McKinley said.
She says when she failed the fifth grade, her parents said its time to earn a living. Imelda went to work in the cotton fields alongside her father and brother. “I was picking cotton but not enough to pay for my lunch. Momma said you’re going to find a job as a maid in the kitchen.”
It was a position she held until she was about 19 years old, then she got married. She says her first marriage didn’t last, but her second one did. Imelda says he was an insurance agent and an army sergeant. But that was not enough to win her over.
She says life lessons taught her to dig deeper. “He said my Lord this is the woman, that’s what they told me, that’s the woman I was looking for,” explained Imelda.
Imelda says after a few dates, she learned he was right. “I did fall in love with him and we did get married.”
Imelda says her husband was a Mason which is a well noted and respected fraternal organization. She joined the Mason’s sisterhood organization, the Eastern Star.
“I didn’t like the idea of sitting behind him while he was in the front,” McKinley explained.
Over the past 40 years, she’s earned a name for herself — the community calls her maw-me for her favored cold cups.
That’s right, she’s a businesswoman too. “I told my children to take these cold cups around the corner and that was my first advertisement.”
Imelda says she takes life one day at a time. when life throws rocks, she’s learned to toss back diamonds. “I live day for day. If I was to go tomorrow, I could say that I lived.”