The thing about doing what you love is that you can share what you do with the world. That’s exactly what Suzi Mc Reynolds has done her whole life. Sometimes we’re not aware of how much we touch others just by living the life we love.
The Dalai Lama says, “I believe the very purpose of life is to be happy.” He says that because happiness is contagious. If you’re happy everyone around you is too!
And that’s what Suzi Mc Reynolds brings to the table.
She has brought her creativity and love of art to all aspects of her life, through sewing and tailoring, real estate and gardening.
She lives what she loves and that’s the beauty and secret of her calm composure and spirit. I am a firm believer that art in any form helps heal the psyche and feed the soul. Suzi is a perfect example of the healing power of art. She has given us all a gift just by the life she lives.
A California girl, Suzi McReynolds was born in San Bernardino. During her early childhood, she lived on a ranch in Lucerne Valley outside of Victorville, spent a few years in Long Beach and then the San Fernando Valley. When she was 10 years old, her family moved to Chino Valley in Arizona just outside of Prescott.
Her first job was making hamburgers but art was always her passion. However, her parents told her that art was too frivolous to be a career, so she went to nurse's aide school. Suzi was a nurse’s aide for three years and then worked in physical therapy before joining a firm of land developers. The job eventually led her to Tehachapi in the early '70s on an airplane that landed in the Cummings Valley.
The company was selling parcels in the area, and as a contract writer, she came for a firsthand look. It was love at first sight. She settled in Caliente, and then, in 1975, she moved to Tehachapi, which she says reminded her of Arizona. Suzi was in her 20s when she moved to Tehachapi with two young children, a girl and a boy. Unfortunately her early marriage hadn’t lasted and she was now a single mom.
Suzi’s daughter is autstic, so in 1976 she moved her little family to Santa Barbara where there was a specialized program for autistic children at UCSB. Suzi was determined to give her daughter the best care possible. Life wasn’t always easy, but her strength saw her through the difficult times.
In Santa Barbara, Suzi made her living as a seamstress. She was self-taught and has been sewing since she was 6 years old. She remembers putting on fashion shows as a young girl. Suzi says she would make elaborate stages out of curtains where she would showcase her creations, made from the patterns she had drawn and sewed.
She always wanted to do art and remembers looking at watercolors with a sense of yearning. “They spoke to my soul,” Suzi recalls. “I just knew if I could have paints, I could do it.”
But life became so difficult, and she was too busy raising two children on her own to pursue her artistic talents.
It wasn’t until she was in her 50s that she started painting.
In 1982, Suzi felt the yearning to come back to Tehachapi. She said the lifestyle and the people in Santa Barbara were very transient, always coming and going, without that settled feeling of "home."
Said Suzi, “I love Tehachapi. I love the oak trees, the rolling hills, the boulders, the deer and the wildlife. The foxes are my favorite. They come up to me and sit with me. I love the outdoors. I walk between four and eight miles a day. I love gardening and being outside. Tehachapi is home.”
Suzi lost her son when he was in his 30s. She said being in touch with nature was the thing that held her together during that difficult time. Suzi’s daughter now lives in a special care home in Riverside. Her son had two boys and they live with their mom in Seattle.
After returning to Tehachapi, Suzi worked in real estate. She helped the community for 31 years.
Suzi recently said, “I used to think I wasn’t doing what I wanted because I really loved art. But one day I figured out I was doing art by helping people. I helped people design their homes, stage their homes for selling and I helped young people get their first home.”
In the community, everyone called her Suzi Mac. To this day she is still well-loved and remembered for all the gifts she shared over the years. She made a difference in the lives of a lot of people. We salute you Suzi Mac!
And Suzi is still doing art. She finally mastered watercolors and sells her paintings at the Treasure Trove. Some of her favorite things to paint are the signs she sees all over town. She captures them first in photographs and then paints them in wonderful watercolors. Her beautiful greeting cards are also available, and she loves to create hand-painted postcards to send to her two grandchildren.
Suzi’s advice to others is “Do what you love!” To young people, especially, she says, “Go to school. Even if you don’t like it, get a good education so you can do whatever you want.”
Judith Campanaro is an expressive arts consultant/educator and the author of "The Wisdom Keepers: Tehachapi Women of Substance," sold at Tehachapi Treasure Trove.