I was fortunate to sit down at the Hotel del Coronado Sun Deck with Cindy Hensley McCain. You may recognize her as the wife of Arizona Senator John McCain. In addition to being a Senator’s wife, minority owner in the Arizona Diamondbacks, board member for international charities and Chairperson since 2000 of Hensley and Company, the Anheuser-Busch beer distributorship her father started in 1955, Cindy is also a wife, mother and down to earth woman who loves coming to Coronado.
The Hensley family visited San Diego when Cindy was a child, but they vacationed in Mission Bay, not Coronado. There is, however, a long McCain legacy in Coronado. Senator McCain’s grandfather and father were both Four Star Admirals in the US Navy. The road leading out of NAS North Island, eventually becoming Fourth Avenue, is called McCain Blvd. John McCain spent years during WWII here as a child. Together, however, they didn’t make frequent trips to Coronado.
It wasn’t until 2004, when Cindy suffered a stroke due to high blood pressure, that she discovered the healing power of Coronado. The family had a great Aunt who lived in Coronado on A Avenue. Cindy knew that to recover from the stroke she needed to concentrate on herself and commit to intense rehabilitation. She left Arizona and rented a place in the Shores. Eventually her speech improved and she was able to walk again. The experience was so positive that Cindy bought a place in the Shores.
Cindy said that not much has changed since she started coming to Coronado. There are definitely more people, but “Coronado keeps its small town feel and humility and is an extraordinarily patriotic town.”
She teased that she thinks she sees more of her kids when she’s in Coronado because they all love it here. One of her favorite places on the island is Breakers Beach at NAS North Island. She says the clear water and the fine sand remind her of the Caribbean. She also enjoyed seeing her two sons when they were stationed here.
Her oldest son, Jack, is a Naval Academy graduate and currently on active duty with the US Navy. Her younger son, Jimmy, enlisted in the Marine Corps when he was just 17 years old and is now attending Texas A&M with plans to reenter the Marines as an officer. Cindy says the toughest part of being a military mom was signing the paperwork for Jimmy and watching him leave. Since Jimmy was a minor, she and John had to give their permission. During the 2007-08 presidential campaign, she couldn’t even talk about Jimmy. It was imperative for his own safety and the safety of those around him that his location not be in the media. Growing up with such a strong military connection, Cindy says that her boys always “knew what they would do.” The best part about being a military family, Cindy told me, is that military service “is the best thing we can do for our country.”
She, naturally, worries about her kids, but nothing else is more important. Our interview was actually cut a bit short because Cindy had to make a scheduled video call with Jack. As the wife of a military man, I can tell you that when you have an opportunity for communication from your service member, you don’t miss it!
We enjoyed talking about Trojan Football since we are both graduates of the University of Southern California. Cindy was a Song Girl while attending USC and says that “it was just a great time to be there.” Her favorite memories are of the Rose Bowl and the football team winning a National Championship. She also enjoys car racing and baseball. When I asked her who she thinks will win a World Series first, the Diamondbacks or the Padres, she kind of laughed and said she “would love either one to win.”
Having recently attended the Republican National Convention, she did offer a couple political comments. Her overall impression of the convention was that it was “successful. Got the message out.” We briefly discussed how some say the Republicans hate women, which, she pointed out, is not true. Cindy said she thought that “Ann Romney did a beautiful job” with her speech. The most important issue for voters to consider in the upcoming election, in her opinion, is the economy. She said that “the economy needs to be squared away and there needs to be support and continued maintenance of our military.” If the Republicans are the majority in the Senate, Senator McCain will be Chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
Perhaps my favorite question I asked Cindy McCain (besides talking USC and sports) was about something she would like to share with others that she is rarely asked. For many years, Senator McCain would commute from D.C. to Arizona. If you have ever had a spouse who spends a great deal of time away, you can probably relate. Mom (or the parent at home) does the best she can to keep it together as disciplinarian, planner, cook, cleaner, homework helper, hugger, etc. and when dad walks through the door, he gets all the attention. Cindy and I agreed that when a parent is away, it’s expected the kids will act well and behave once s/he is home. For the McCain family, it was Cindy who, though it was challenging at times, was “the anchor that keeps my family together. I had to find creative ways to keep us close and we are close.” She says that she “tried to make a difference and be an example to [her] children, encouraging them to do the same.” I think that best sums up Cindy Hensley McCain. On top of all the high profile things she has done in her life, her greatest accomplishment , what she is most proud of, is being a wife and mother.
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