MINEOLA, TX (KLTV) - Just about everyone in the Mineola area has been touched by Mrs. Johnnie Bendy, either as their teacher or through her community service.
"I'm not one of her students, but on the way out here she said, 'I'm going to tell you something and you're going to do it,'" said one woman. "Oh yes, she demands."
Demanding is only one of many adjectives friends and admirers use to describe Mrs. Johnnie Bendy. Dynamic, inspiring and classy are just a few of the other descriptions. For over 80 years Bende's impact has been felt in the Mineola community.
"I've had a good life because I like people and the Lord has just blessed me to understand all people," said Bendy.
Johnnie Bendy was named after her father, who died in the great flu epidemic of 1918 just three weeks before she was born. Bendy's mother, Lee Ella, put an emphasis on education, inspiring her daughter to go to school, working as a domestic for a dollar and a quarter a week through high school and through Texas College.
"This is the time I did without food three days and nights before that time I just had peanut patties, cinnamon roles or something like that," said Bendy. "38 years taught for pre schools through the twelfth."
Bendy has been recognized as a distinguished teacher both locally and nationally. She taught in segregated schools for 20 years and another 18 after integration former student Shirley Roberson says Bendy had a great influence on her life.
"As students, she taught us to reach our goals, to set goals and to reach our goals," explained Roberson.
Not setting goals and striving to reach them just wasn't in Bendy's book.
"I used to tell them you have no excuses," said Bendy. "The only excuses you have is you are dead or some of your close relatives are dead."
Eddie Walton, who admits he was a bit of a troublemaker in class, says one of Mrs. Bendy's favorite sayings was: Never trouble trouble 'til trouble troubles you.
"She'd look at me and say, 'Eddie Ray, you're troubling trouble,'" said Ray.
Bendy still hears regularly from the many students she taught during her 38 years in the classroom.
"The Johnnie Bende trail, that must be fun to see your name," I said to her.
"Oh it is, it is, it really is," exclaimed Bendy.
Johnnie Bendy's honors and service to her community could fill a volume, ranging from volunteer of the year, woman of the year, and neighborhood watch chairman to contributions, both financial and historic, to the Mineola Nature Preserve.
Bendy, who fished in the ponds and walked along the railroad track on what is now the Mineola Nature Preserve, was the primary resource for the preserve's history.
"She's added a lot of history to the preserve as a result of her being involved with the focus group," said Mineola City Manager, Dion O. Miller .
Many of the names such as Bridge Bob, Goggle Eyed Pond, White Perch Hole and Turkey Island, all come from childhood memories. When Johnnie Bendy looks back over her life and the many legacies she leaves to the people of Mineola and East Texas, even she is a bit astounded.
"I don't know how I did that myself but I did," said Bendy.
Yes, she did.
You can get a good look at the Mineola Nature Preserve during Mineola's Third Annual Nature Fest. That's Saturday May 23th from 7am until midnight admission is free.