Menrose Johnson: Still cooking and teaching at 97 years old

March 22, 2018

In 1924, the legendary jazz trumpeter, composer and singer Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong moved from Chicago to the burgeoning Harlem night club scene in New York City, a move which made him an international sensation whose music transcended the strict racial barriers of that era.

That same year, three-year-old Menrose Johnson, her two sisters and the rest of her family relocated from Tupelo, Mississippi to Milwaukee. On February 15, 2018 Menrose celebrated her 97th birthday with family and friends.

“I’ve been coming here since the place was built,” she said. Despite being one of the senior-most clients in the Simba adult day care unit, she typically attends St. Ann’s three times a week: Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Menrose still has a razor- sharp memory and has been known to teach cooking and craft classes on occasion to the other members of her senior group. She is the step sister of Diane Beckley, chief operating officer of the St. Ann’s Bucyrus Campus.

She married her husband, Aaron, when she was 18-years-old and the newlyweds soon began managing Mae’s Tavern which belonged to her mother-in-law, Mae McGee Johnson. Sometime in the 1950s Menrose and Aaron bought property near the intersection of 6th and Clarke streets. They named establishment the Metropolitan Bar and Hall.

An expert cook, Menrose contributed many signature dishes to the Metropolitan Bar and later to the menu of the On the Bayou Restaurant, located at 2053 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. The restaurant is owned by her son, Greg, with whom Menrose now lives. When Menrose first started attending St. Ann’s, Diane said that she sensed that having Menrose teach an occasional cooking class might prove popular and by all indication, Diane’s instincts were correct.

Cooking with Menrose has become a popular intergenerational activity. Adults and children gather around the kitchen island as she takes them step-by-step through her recipes. Spaghetti and banana pudding are very popular, but everyone loves her peach cobbler, Menrose said.

In addition to helping run the Metropolitan Bar and Hall, Menrose also crafted unique and elegant lampshades by hand for many years, a craft she hopes to begin teaching her friends and acquaintances at St. Ann’s as soon as the new Multi-Fiber Arts Room is completed.

Menrose still attends St. Matthew CME Church, 2944 North Ninth Street.

“A person shouldn’t just sit alone in the house watching TV,” she said when Menrose was asked by Diane her for secret staying young. “You have to get out and be with people.”

Read More About: