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Mende Stringer Bruce, CHS Class of 1972, Named Ex-Students Assn. Coming Home Queen


                Cleburne High School Ex-Students Association 2022 Coming Home Queen Mende Stringer Bruce has radiated Yellow Jacket Pride and Spirit all through life.

                The 1972 CHS graduate, who went on to dedicate 34 years to educating middle school Jackets, including 15 years as a coach, will among the “recognized royalty” at Thursday’s Homecoming Parade, set for 6 p.m. starting from the high school.

Leading the cavalcade will be State Rep. DeWayne Burns, CHS Class of 1990, who is being honored as the Ex-Students Association Homecoming Parade Marshal. As “outstanding exes,” Bruce and Burns will also be recognized in Friday’s pre-game festivities beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Following the Homecoming parade will be a Community Pep Rally and the Bonfire, which will take place across from Marti Elementary School.

The parade will follow the same route as in previous years, exiting from the high school’s west parking lot, heading east on Harlin before it takes a left on Woodard, at the far end of the Wheat Middle School campus. It will then turn north on Colonial, passing between Wheat and CHS, before ending at Harlin and Yellow Jacket Drive. A map of the parade route is posted in the CISD Facebook page.

MJ Larrison, who was recognized as the 2019 Coming Home Queen, says her longtime friend and classmate is an ideal choice for the Homecoming honor.

“We’ve known each other since first grade,” Larrison said. “She has been a great friend and a faithful friend. I can’t say enough about her—she’s such a genuine person. Mende was a wonderful teacher, coach and yearbook sponsor as a member of our middle school staff. She was one of those teachers that volunteered for everything because she cared about kids.”

“Naming Mende this year’s Coming Home Queen is great,” Larrison said. “She truly represents Cleburne as a ‘good ole Yellow Jacket.’ She loves this community--her pride in the Yellow Jackets runs deep.”

Bruce, who remains overwhelmed by the honor, is a second-generation Cleburne graduate. Her parents, Bill Stringer and Bobbie (Brown) Stringer were members of the 1946 and 1947 classes. Her older brother, Monte, is a member of the CHS Class of 70. Her younger brother, Marty, graduated in 1979. Both will be joining their sister at Friday’s football game.

Bruce’s senior honors in the 1972 Santa Fe Trail Yearbook is a paragraph rather than a line or two. She is a member of one of the last graduating classes to spend all four years at what is still considered the “old high school” on Buffalo Street. The former campus now serves as the Guinn Justice Center. She was a member of the “legendary” high school House system utilized for decades, and was honored by Barton House classmates who named her their Best All Around Freshman, Sophomore, Junior and Senior. She was elected Barton House President in her senior year.

Bruce has many happy high school memories, from Thursday night street painting in anticipation of Friday’s football game to serving as bat girl for the Jackets Baseball Team. She won the student talent show as a junior, in her first experience playing guitar and singing before an audience.

“I grew up playing softball, but the only high school sport made available to Cleburne girls back then was tennis,” she said. “But I played softball on The University of North Texas women’s team my freshman year. I was the only freshman on the roster.”

“I decided that if I couldn’t play softball at CHS, I could at least be a part of the game as a bat girl for the Jackets varsity team,” she said. “I’ve always loved sports. I also loved when Cleburne would play Temple in football. If it was an away game, everyone in Cleburne would ride the train to Temple. Their stadium was located near the train station so we would get off, go the game, then ride home. It was so much fun. The whole train was nothing but Cleburne people.”

                Her growing up years in Cleburne also included being a Coleman Colt and a second-generation member of Camp Fire—in which she is still involved.  She has served on the Tesuya Council Board of Directors for 35 years. This summer, Bruce will celebrate her 60th year as Camp Fire Camp Director.

                Wheat Middle School Counselor Marci Barr also claims Bruce as a lifelong friend—through Camp Fire, as a neighbor and as a colleague.

                “Mende was on staff in my first year at Wheat, before she retired,” Barr said. “She was an amazing teacher. She brought the classroom to life—she made kids want to learn.”

                “I’m so excited to see her being honored as Coming Home Queen,” Barr said. “Her parents lived across the street from mine—I have known her all my life. Growing up, Mende was the cool kid—I idolized her. She taught me swimming and she was our Camp Fire Camp Leader. She’s always been a special person to me and someone I consider a mentor. She has always guided me with her wisdom.”

                Bruce credits Camp Fire and her fourth-grade teacher as her inspiration in choosing a career in education.

                “The Native American culture has always been an important part of Camp Fire, from its earliest days,” Bruce said. “When I went to Camp Fire Camp in fourth grade, part of the tradition was to choose your Native American name, which best reflected your personality and who you wanted to be. I chose ‘Techu-le-tum’ which means to swim upstream, to play the game to the end—and to be a teacher.”

                Between that experience and the impact on her young life by Coleman teacher Jessie Case, Bruce found her pathway and never strayed.

                “Mrs. Case inspired me,” she said. “She was just one of those teachers who knew every kid—and knew something about each one. She captured my heart early on. She did the same thing for my big brother.”

                Equipped with a map for her future, Bruce spent her freshman year at UNT before transferring to Tarleton State University, where she graduated in 1976 with a bachelor’s degree in health and PE and a minor in English. She did her student teaching at Cleburne Junior High and was employed by the district in 1977.

                “I taught eighth grade English for two years, then added PE and coaching, which I did for 15 years,” she said. “I loved coaching volleyball. Those first years of teaching were a bit like coming home, as they had just converted the high school into the junior high when they opened the new CHS.”

                When a new middle school facility (now Wheat MS) was built, Bruce was among its first faculty members. She later made the move to what is now the Smith campus when it was originally constructed to serve as the district’s 7th-8th grade facility. She later transitioned back to Wheat, where she retired.

                In addition to English/language arts, Bruce also taught journalism and served as the newspaper and yearbook sponsor.

                “I was the sponsor of the ‘Hornet Hotline,’” she said. “I liked the creative part of editing the work of our student reporters. I admit to being a ‘grammar Nazi.’ And I loved laying out the paper before it went to print.”

                As she prepares for Thursday’s kickoff to Homecoming festivities, Bruce is looking forward to the excitement—and cherishing the memories.

                “The tradition of Homecoming hasn’t changed a whole lot,” she said. “They didn’t have a bonfire when I was in high school, but they did have the parade—and I loved it. When I was a junior in high school in snowed on Homecoming—in October.”

                When asked, Bruce said there is much she loves about being a Cleburne Yellow Jacket.

“I love our good ole hometown pride, which includes the Yellow Jackets.” she said. “I have such a heartfelt pride in being a Cleburne Yellow Jacket.”