In the early morning hours of October 20, 2018, Inez E. McKenzie shed her mortal body and rejoined her departed family for a big, happy reunion. On a rainy day, December 7, 1920, Inez Esther Lehti was born on the home ranch, one mile north of Donnelly, Idaho. She was the second child of Fred and Ida Maria (Prinkki) Lehti, immigrants from Finland.
Inez’s first memories were of trying to keep up with her mother, who was herding the cattle back home because of a raging fire in the Lake Fork bottomland. As a youngster she followed her dad around with her own little hammer to help fix fence. Her brother, Alvin, had to stay inside to help their mother with housework. After starting school, the jobs were switched.
Inez learned English while attending the Donnelly Grade School, west of town, and went on to graduate from the newly built Donnelly High School, where she “lived for basketball”, walking back and forth to town for practice. She was Salutatorian of the 1939 class of students.
When World War II began, she saw her brother off to war, a traumatic event for this close Finnish family, and went to work at the Donnelly Mercantile, which was owned by Carl Shaver. It was there, that she met a just-returned-from-the-war soldier boy, Delmer R. McKenzie, Garden Valley, and they were married in 1946. Their first summer together was spent living in a tent with a tent frame on West Mountain. They then made their home on property they purchased south of Donnelly.
Inez and Delmer had three children, Ronald, Ralph and Sylvia, before Delmer was killed in a logging accident while building a road on West Mountain in 1951. Raising her three children became her utmost priority. With her dad’s gift of a guernsey cow, Inez and her children raised their own beef, pigs and chickens.
Inez worked for the City of Donnelly as City Clerk for many years. She loved to cook and try new recipes so it was an easy and fun transition to serve as a cook at the Valley County Hospital in Cascade for several years.
She loved flowers and nurtured a beautiful rock garden, pouring over the seed catalogs, always eager to try new flower species. Her passion for nature and the mountains led her to spend hours collecting unusual rocks, flat rocks for pathways, wood burls, unique tree roots and any unusual plants. Incorporate that with her continual photography and the family is endowed with many, many, MANY photographs of the rock garden and all her outdoor projects! Her photography also encompasses a lot of history of the Donnelly area. If there was a parade, a heavy winter, or a local building on fire, Inez was there with her camera. That love of local history led her to volunteer and regale the visitors to the Valley County Museum at Roseberry, with local history and answers to their questions about the area.
Reading was also a passion of Inez’s. She spent many winter hours enjoying her magazines, books, recipes and poetry. She had great regard for the printed word and knowledge. She esteemed the evangelist, Billy Graham; read many of his books and presented them as gifts.
She was fiercely proud of her Finnish heritage, independent and worked hard. In her early 90’s she was still out shoveling snow in the winter and packing water to her flowers in the summer. Her family was her life, supplying them with good food, laughter and always…………..more photographs!
She is survived by her children, Ralph (Rhonda) McKenzie and Sylvia (Ken) Tinsley; her grandchildren and their families, Valerie (Shane ) Hertell and Jacquelynn and Hayley; Veronica (Matt) Naumann and Tucker; Shannon McKenzie-Hagan and Finn and Tess; Amber McKenzie and Zeni and Solea; Ryan McKenzie; Aaron (Danielle) Tinsley and Duncan; and Gabe Tinsley.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Delmer McKenzie; her parents, Fred and Ida Lehti, her brother Alvin and his wife Bea Leaf; and her son, Ron McKenzie.
If you would like to honor Inez with a memorial donation, please consider the Long Valley Preservation Society or the Finn Church and Cemetery.
Our celebration and memories of a well-lived life of almost 98 years will be held on Monday, October 29th, 2018 at 11:00 a.m. in the Donnelly Bible Church, in Donnelly. Interment will immediately follow in the Finnish Church Cemetery, followed by a potluck dinner back at the Donnelly Bible Church.
The entire McKenzie family would like to express their heartfelt thanks to the many wonderful caregivers who touched Inez’s life.
If desired, you may leave a note, message, or condolence for Inez’s family at www.mccallfunerals.com
Arrangements in care of McCall Funeral Home, McCall, Idaho.
To send flowers to Inez's family, please visit our floral section.
Long Valley Finnish Church and Cemetery
13734 Farm to Market Road, McCall ID 83638
Long Valley Preservation Society
PO Box 444, Donnelly ID 83516-0444