Editor's note: Halloween seems a fitting time to share Markay Holly Schroeder's story of her pioneer grandmother, Ida May Kearney, operator of the historic Kenilworth Inn.
By Karen Brainard
The spirit of Ramona pioneer Ida May Kearney lives on, says Markay Holly Schroeder, who met her great-grandmother only once — 42 years after she died.
“I’ll never forget it. It was so powerful,” Schroeder said, still in awe of the moment.
Schroeder was 23 and going through a difficult time when Ida May, who is revered in Ramona history for
operating the former Kenilworth Inn, appeared at her bedside.
“The message for me was that all was going to be fine,” said Schroeder.
That was in 1965 but Schroeder said she, still feels Ida May is with her.
The sighting happened in the house on Third Street where her mother, the late Mary Kay Kearney Holly Pinkard, lived. Pinkard died last year and Schroeder has been finding all sorts of “treasures” in the house. One of the treasures is the apron Ida May was wearing in an old photograph and when she appeared to Schroeder in 1965. Schroeder found the apron stashed away in a box in the same bedroom where she experienced the sighting.
As Schroeder tells it, she was about a week away from delivering her second child but was having some complications and was grieving the sudden loss of her father, Alanson Parker Holly. As she and her husband, Don, visited her mother, Schroeder went to the bedroom to lay down.
“I had not fallen asleep. So all of a sudden Ida May came to me. I was not afraid, but I said, ‘It’s a ghost,’” Schroeder remembered with a catch in her throat. “She came and she was all in white, completely in white with the apron.
“She was just absolutely golden. All around her hair, it was golden. Her eyes just popped out, beautiful eyes.”
Ida May’s smile was “angel-like,” she added, and the only dark item on her were her black shoes.
Schroeder called her mother and husband to the room but as soon as they walked in, Ida May dissipated.
I said, ‘There’s a ghost, there’s an angel.’”
Schroeder had never seen a picture of Ida May but when she told her mother that the ghost had beautiful eyes and an angel-like smile, Pinkard immediately said it was Ida May.
A week to 10 days later, Schroeder said she gave birth to son Michael and everything went fine.
Recently, Schroeder said, her sister, Lancey Wilson, came across writings by their mother that referred to Ida
May wearing all white clothing.
“My Great-Grandmother Ida May was a lovable, beautiful soul who was loved by so many,” said Schroeder.
According to family history, Ida May was “a tiny 4’9” 90-pound bundle of energy” and was “the epitome of a woman ahead of her time.” With the help of her two sons, Ida May established a booming hotel and restaurant business at the two-story Kenilworth Inn at Eighth and Main streets, according to the family. She wore the apron as she greeted guests to the inn. Ida May died in April 1923, and the Kenilworth Inn burned to the ground in September 1943.
Schroeder, who has a business, Markay’s Wearable Art that specializes in jewelry, said she has been told that she has Ida May’s entrepreneurial spirit.
Meeting Ida May was not the only time Schroeder experienced an unexplained phenomenon.
Later in life, Schroeder, now 71, lived in an apartment in Pyne Castle in Laguna Beach. Shortly after she moved in, she was vacuuming and the door to the hallway opened. She thought it was her friend, Christine, who also lived there, but Schroeder didn’t see anyone. She did see the door on the other side of the room swinging as if someone had gone through it. Christine later told her it was the owner’s deceased cleaning lady who was known to check out new residents.
Another time at the apartment, Schroeder was preparing to have people over for dinner and put out four plates. She left the room and when she came back, there were only three plates. She never found the missing plate.
Schroeder is still close to her childhood friend Donna Edens, who has a company called Innersource and a book titled “Energy Medicine.” When one of Edens’ practitioners visited the apartment, Schroeder said the door opened and the practitioner said she could feel and experience the maid.
Special gifts have also run on Schroeder’s father’s side as her grandmother, Mabel Barber Holly, a member of the Christian Science Church, was a healer and went to Indian reservations to heal babies, Schroeder said. She was compensated with Indian baskets.
Schroeder, who now lives in Encinitas, said she believes the energy from Ida May “and my grandmother Mabel and others close to me in my family are with me even though they’re on the other side. I don’t believe there’s any separation.”