Resident Spotlight: Larry McKenzie

Larry McKenzie

A Man With A Mission

The telephone rings at 8:30 pm. It is someone in need of prayer and comfort. Larry McKenzie redresses and goes to the hospital. This is the kind of day it has been for Larry since arising at 6:00 that morning. His calendar for each day, he says, “comes from God”. On arising each morning, Larry quotes scripture from Psalms: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it”. He then asks God, “Lord what would you have me do today?” His answer comes from phone calls, emails and conversations with others.

Anyone acquainted with Larry McKenzie recognizes that he is a godly and humble man who lives to serve others. At a service honoring Larry on his 35th anniversary at Highland Street Church of Christ, it was acknowledged that Larry’s work “covered a larger spectrum than most in his position-from being the resident expert on every piece of equipment in their building, and also one who knows exactly how to word a prayer in a hospital room, or say the right thing at a funeral. He counsels with troubled individuals, teaches searchers about the Gospel, visits those with special needs and additionally supervises staff and custodial personnel”.

Recently, the leadership and congregants of Highland Church of Christ honored Larry for his fifty(50) years of association with them. What an unusual feat! He has not kept records but estimates that he has conducted at least 400 funerals, many weddings and hundreds of counseling sessions for members of his church thus far. He said he thought preaching a funeral would get easier as he got older, but he says “that is not the case. It has gotten more difficult. You try to make each service special to honor the person”.

Since moving to Kirby Pines in December of 2014, Larry has endeared himself to the residents. His warm smile radiates from a happy, positive countenance that invites friendship. His reason for moving to Kirby Pines is because of the health guarantee. “I do not want to be a burden to any of my family”. A frequent comment one hears from other residents living at Kirby Pines! “Not having to cook and wash dishes” are what he likes best about living here.

In addition to his usual work schedule, Larry is now serving as President of the Resident’s Association at Kirby Pines. He says that the responsibilities of that job are more challenging than he had anticipated. His goal as President is to be a communication conduit to the residents and to help every new resident of Kirby Pines feel welcomed and become involved in some of the activities at Kirby Pines. He visits local hospitals most days to pray with those members of his church and residents of Kirby Pines who are hospitalized.

Larry’s story has a beginning. He was born on June 23, 1933, in Van Zandt County, Texas. He was the middle child, having 2 older brothers, then twin sisters born 22 months afterward.

From childhood, Larry said all he ever wanted to be was a farmer and a preacher. He actually began his “preacher life” early. At age 5 he baptized his 2 younger sisters in ditch water. They were covered in mud and with “hair all stringy” when they got home. One can only imagine how his mother responded.

To paraphrase a familiar saying “you can take the boy out of Texas but you can’t take Texas out of the boy”. This is pretty obvious when you see Larry in his cowboy boots (he says they are “Sunday attire”) and his occasional visits to Texas. Larry lived his entire life in Van until entering Abilene Christian College in Abilene, Texas in 1951. He met his future wife, Nelda Joe there. He graduated in January 1956 and they were married May 19, 1956.

After graduation, Larry took his first position as pulpit minister at a church in Omak, Washington, making $300 a month. There he got his wish to be a farmer. He worked in an apple orchard to supplement his income and participated in all work necessary for a successful apple business. However, Larry stopped work when temperatures reached 20 degrees!

His oldest daughter, Patricia, was born in Omak, but the family moved to Spokane, Washington, for another pulpit position when she was 2 weeks old. From Spokane, the family moved back to Abilene, Texas, for Larry to attend graduate school at Abilene Christian College. While attending school, he was also on the staff of College Church of Christ and made his first missionary trip to Perth, Australia. His second daughter, Robin was born in Abilene.

Then, in January 1969, Larry moved his family to Memphis where he began his ministry at Highland Street Church of Christ. Throughout his ministry, Larry has made numerous missionary journeys. He says he has had the privilege of visiting 32 countries and all but 5 states in the U.S. His missions have included 10 trips to Papua, New Guinea and 10 to Ukraine, to name only a few. He was part of Mission/1000 at Highland church for 19 sessions, teaching a seminar on prayer. He intends to continue missionary work as long as possible.

In addition to his 2 daughters, Patricia and Robin, Larry has an older brother and one sister still living. He has 2 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren. His wife Nelda Joe passed away from complications of Alzheimer’s in 2010.

Certainly, Larry has a strong spiritual and serious side, but he also has a definite sense of humor. He is known by his friends for “the Larry McKenzie’isms”, such as “it ain’t braggin’ if you done it’. When asked how he would like to be remembered, Larry responded immediately, “that I was a blessing to someone when no one else could be”. He also acknowledges the support and mentoring he has received in all the places he has been employed, especially at Highland Church of Christ. “without this and the love from members of the congregation, I would not be where or who I am today”.

Our good fortune as residents of Kirby Pines is that Larry McKenzie chose to live among us. Let us fold our arms around him, as he is doing for us and pray for his continued service and a STRONG FINISH!

Written by resident, Joan Dodson