Full disclosure: Karen MacCrory was my favorite server and then my friend, long before she became the director of the Kreative Kids Christian Academy in Marathon.
Some may question that career leap, but I knew instantly it was a perfect fit. Why? Because at Christmas time she provided her bar flies with white paper and scissors to make snowflakes and at Thanksgiving we used construction paper to make hand-shaped turkeys she hung behind the counter. (Mine were the prettiest; Karen said so).
There wasn’t a game we didn’t play, or joke that went untold, as we enjoyed our social hour. She and I also had plenty of “energetic” conversations about topics from A to Z — not exactly heated, but sometimes more than lively.
She’s leaving the Keys this month, after 25 years, to move back to the Kansas farm she grew up on. Bon voyage, Karen.
Where did you live before you came to the Keys?
In a little town called Beloit, Kansas. It’s halfway between Kansas City and Denver, Colorado. Really, there’s nothing in the middle. I didn’t really consult my family about moving to the Keys when I was 25 years old on the recommendation of a friend who knew about a restaurant that was opening. After I had been here for about six months, my dad flew down to check on me. He told me, ‘As soon as I saw how everyone on the island treated you, I knew you had found your home.’
Who were the first people that you met?
Well, Mackie (my husband) was actually the first person that I met. He saw me get out of my Dodge Dakota truck with everything that I owned in the front seat and came over to introduce himself. I had come to work for Suzy and George Neugent (Monroe County Commissioner), but they hadn’t even opened Porky’s Restaurant yet. So I helped them paint it, (my first community service!) and then I took a job at the Cracked Conch Café working for Boyd Robbins and Joe DeConda. I worked at the Conch for 10 years. There weren’t any titles or anything, but I took care of the place and they let me.
How did you become director of the day care?
Jake was born in 2006. Despite what the doctors had said, and after Mac and I had been together 15 years, it finally happened and that changed everything. I was already a member of the New Life Assembly of God congregation and when they found themselves in need of a new preschool director, they asked me to take the position. Keith and Debbie LaFountain told me they thought I would be great for the job, that I had the right mentality. The church gave me a scholarship and trained me. Playing with the kids? That was easy.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
Well, I just got my associates of science online from the Tallahassee Community College! And I’m proud of helping to grow the academy from about 30 kids and 5 employees to 83 kids and 13 employees. And I love being part of the Holiday Helpers program that gives gifts to needy children every year, because that adds value to kids’ lives. Most of all, I’m proud of the many friends I’ve made in the Keys and the relationships I’ve made with so many fine mentors. And I’m very grateful to have served the community, as well. I’m also grateful that we are keeping our home here where we have so many happy memories.
Where are you going?
Back home, to Beloit. It’s a 500-acre farm with beef cattle herds and grain crops. My dad Glen Creager, 74, is excited to have us there and my son, Jake, 9, is excited too. I don’t know how he will feel about 10 below in the winter and 110 in the summer … he might be shocked. But our little town of 3,000 has a community-run waterpark and community-run cinema and my family is there, so we’re happy about that. It’s just a 15-minute drive into town and Grandma’s house, that is Jake’s emergency back up plan, if farming turns out to be harder than lying on a beach.
What will you miss most about the Keys?
The people, each and every extraordinary, special one of them! I wouldn’t be who I am, if they hadn’t been who they are.