SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: ENGRACIA WALKER
Moving into a big, new apartment building can be a bit intimidating, but not when there is someone like Engracia Walker around to help welcome you. Thelma Yancy, a resident of New Community Manor Senior in Newark, found this out first-hand back in 2006. Walker not only greeted Yancy with a plate of food, but offered the new resident on her floor other household items to help her get started in her new place.
“Ms. Walker is one of the kindest, most beautiful women that I have ever met,” said Yancy, a retired preschool teacher. “She is a very unique person in her own right.”
Born in Puerta de Santiago, Puerto Rico, Walker was raised in San Juan. Her mother was a homemaker, her father, a fisherman. The middle child among five children, Walker lived on a farm where her father raised a lot of roosters, in addition to other animals like horses, goats and pigs.
“I love roosters,” said Walker, 69, who even today has replicas of the male chickens on display throughout her apartment.
One of the scariest moments she experienced as a child is when her father became lost at sea for two days in his fishing boat. Walker was not convinced her daddy was ever coming home again.
“We were waiting and waiting and he finally came home 7 o’clock at night. I was so glad,” Walker recalled.
She left Puerto Rico for the United States in 1961, finding work at a handbag factory in Newark’s Ironbound section, a job she held for about a decade, working to support her seven children. She has been disabled for quite a few years now and moved into NCC’s Manor Senior building almost 10 years ago.
“I love all the people who live here. I appreciate them and help interpret for them if they don’t speak English,” she said. “Nobody bothers me and everybody is nice to me. I clean the house, I do exercise, read a book, watch TV.”
Walker also enjoys cooking, with her favorite dishes to prepare being lasagna, rice and beans, pork shoulder and fried fish.
Sister Innocentia Emenogu, Care Coordinator at Manor Senior, said Walker is always willing to extend a hand to others.
“Everyone in the building can say Ms. Walker is a great woman, whether it is serving as an interpreter, helping out with events happening in the building or just putting a smile on one of her neighbor’s faces,” she said.
One thing’s for sure. Walker’s 21 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren certainly help keep a smile on her face.