Carol Theresa Mende of El Paso, entered her Father’s kingdom on February 8, just short of her 90th birthday. Viewing with the family will be held at Sunset Funeral at 4631 Honda Pass from 12:00 to 3:00 on February 18, and a Celebration of Life will be held at Tobin Park United Methodist Church at 9410 Roanoke at 6:00 p.m. on February 18 to honor her life and legacy.
Carol was born February 28, 1933, to Harry Durham and Leola (Real) Durham in Muskogee, Oklahoma. She was the oldest of her three siblings and grew up raised by loving Aunts and parents. Her childhood education was spent in several different schools in Oklahoma as her parents were teachers, moving as needed for employment during the depression. When Carol was 12, the family moved to Washington State. There, she lost her brother to a drowning accident which impacted her family and her life. Despite the frequent changes in schools and homes as well as her family’s tragedy, she graduated as Valedictorian at the age of 16 from Inchelium High School. Carol then attended the State College of Washington in Pullman, Washington, graduating in 1953 with a BA in Education.
On June 30, 1953, Carol was united in marriage to Gordon Mende at Kessler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi. They were blessed with 5 children and shared 17 years together. She would often say that she got the best years and the best treasures—her children.
Carol had her first job teaching while in Mississippi. After Gordon completed his tour of duty, the couple moved back to Washington, where Carol taught school and Gordon completed his college education. Melanie had been born in Biloxi and then Kevin joined them during this time. Gaining employment with Western Electric, the family moved to New Jersey for a short time where Brian was born. And when Gordon was transferred to White Sands Missile Range as an Engineer, their home became El Paso and Bruce and Gary completed the family.
Carol returned to Teaching in 1970, beginning as a substitute teacher, then teaching many years at Crosby Elementary School. She had many wonderful years there with many wonderful students. Even though she admitted that she wouldn’t have touched Science with a 10-foot pole when she herself was in school, nevertheless she took additional courses in order to teach Science classes and became so proficient that she served on El Paso Science Curriculum Development Teams and oversaw the city Science Fairs for several years. She was named Crosby’s Teacher of the Year in 1977 and again in 1994 when she was honored as the Campus Teacher of the Year. Teaching was in her blood growing up with two educators as parents so even though she retired from Crosby at the age of 66, she continued as a tutor at Fannin Elementary for many years after.
An excellent seamstress and tailor, her skills with fabric and patterns helped her support her family over many years. Carol sewed for numerous weddings, from bridal gowns to flower girl dresses, prom and quinceanera dresses, football jersey repairs, and all kinds of outfits and clothing for her friends, and her friend’s friends. She would often be found sitting at her sewing machine with a bevy of ladies sitting around visiting, sometimes even letting themselves out late at night with a “Goodnight, Carol” after she had already gone to bed.
Her home was a haven for anyone who needed a helping hand, a place to stay for a while, a supportive and discerning ear to share troubles or joys with. She lived her life as Jesus had instructed “if you do this to the least of my brethren, you do it to me.” She helped raise and was a second mother to most of the neighborhood kids.
Her children grew up knowing unconditional love and support, a love that transcended the sorrows and magnified the blessings. Finances were lean but Carol always found a way to support each child in all of their endeavors, their hopes and dreams--from sports to music, to college and careers, to marriage and families of their own. She was blessed with 12 grandchildren and it was a matter of pride that she was able to attend every single one of their high school graduations, as well as most of their college graduations and weddings.
Carol was a devout Christian and a faithful and devoted member of Tobin Park Methodist Church and the United Methodist Women for over 60 years. Serving her church as a Sunday School teacher and with Bible Studies, she was also a major contributor and organizer for their church bazaars and recognition events. She was so thankful to have church friends provide her a way to continuie attending services when she no longer was driving.
Carol was preceded in death by her parents, Harry and Leola Durham, her brother, Richard Lee Durham, her precious son Gary Darrin Mende in 2012, and brother-in-law John McLaughlin. She is survived by her children, Melanie (Jim) Flynn of Emmetsburg, Iowa, Kevin (Maggie) Mende of El Paso, Texas, Brian (Tisha) Mende of Corpus Christi, Texas, and Bruce (Cheryl) Mende of Leander, Texas; grandchildren Eric (Air) Flynn, Lori Flynn, Kayla (Khoa) Pham, Jesse Mende, Sarah Mende, Jared (Bethany) Mende, Kyle (Angie) Mende, Travis Mende, Caitlin Mende, Robert (Saimi) Oullette Mende, Lea (Luke) Szczerba, and Heather (Matt) Turner; 13 great grandchildren; sisters Joyce McLaughlin of Alvarado, Texas and Sara (Harold) O’Bryan of Cashmere, Washington, numerous nieces and nephews, and countless close friends who consider themselves part of her family.