When you know Mary “Mac” Gonzalez, you’ll understand the phrase “age is just a number.” She’s 82 years old, but high spirited and full of life. She met her husband when she was 17 years old and got married in 1953. Her husband bought their house on Old Malibu Road for $2,700 in 1949. They have four children and eight grandchildren. She became a widow in 1983 when she saw her husband tragically fall from the roof of their home on her 50th birthday. “You never get over it, but you get through it if you believe in a higher power,” Gonzalez shared.
Gonzalez regularly participates in tai chi and other exercise programs at the Senior Center. She loves gardening and is part of the Malibu Garden Club. Gonzalez was voted to be part of a friendly contest in Malibu in the ’40s and won.
The Malibu Times got a chance to sit down with the woman who started the first recycling center in California in the 1950s in Malibu.
You are responsible for getting the street name changed to Webb Way? What prompted you to do that?
When Pepperdine came and the road changed, they called it Trauts. It didn’t mean anything; it was just Stuart spelled backwards. So I started a petition and asked the community to sign it. Bill Webb had just passed away and was a great man in the community who knew how to work with children. Everybody knew Bill and it was very easy to get signatures for the petition. Webb Way has a rhythmic sound to it too. Back then, when you were the first person to build a house on the street, you could name it after yourself.
You’ve been involved with Our Lady of Malibu for quite some time. What do you do?
My husband was the first lector there. We were very active. It was a small church and small congregation. When we first moved here it wasn’t there; we used to go to Topanga. We have a mission in Mexico and we pack food and take it there. I really love that and still do it.
You regularly visit the downtown jails and hospitals to visit with people who suffer from alcoholism and addiction. Why do you choose to do that? What have you learned from the experience?
I go with a group and we take information about sobriety. I’ve been doing it for about 10 years now. It makes me happy and it feels like we’re doing something. I’ve learned how fortunate we are and how we need to be more kind and compassionate.
If you could give one message to the Malibu City Council what would it be and why?
It would have something to do with the homeless — especially during storms. I wish there was some way we could do more for the less fortunate. I know there are groups that are doing things, but if there were a way to do something as a community, it would be great.
What is your favorite thing about Malibu?
You’ve lived in Malibu for quite some time, how have you seen it change over the years? If you could change one thing about Malibu what would it be and why?
More grumpy people. They get road rage and so much more. I’d change the grumpy people.
How was it having your portrait painted by Johanna Spinks?
It was delightful. An experience that was magical. I love her.