A grizzly bear will be standing watch over Gerard Elementary School, in the form of a statue presented to the campus on behalf of the 2019 fifth grade class.
Ken and Shirley Pendley, who have been very involved Gerard grandparents since their granddaughter Livi Estes was in kindergarten, donated the statue on behalf of Livi and her fellow fifth grade classmates.
“I’ve been looking for a bear for Gerard for a year or so,” Ken Pendley said. “It actually rode on the Gerard Homecoming float last fall. This is our last year to help at Gerard, and the bear is something I thought would be nice for the campus.
“We love the teaching staff here. It’s a good situation. The communication level here is good between teachers and parents. We’re retired and have been very involved Gerard grandparents. Any time there has been a function or event, we’ve been involved.”
The Gerard Grizzly stands just under 5 feet tall and is strictly for outdoor use, which will make it a fixture in the school yard for years to come.
“Our hopes are that years later, these kids will want to come back to Gerard and stand by the statute,” Shirley Pendley said. “They will be able to say ‘this was our gift to the school.’”
Livi Estes thinks the new addition to the campus is pretty special.
“I think it’s really cool to have a bear statute at Gerard. I’m really happy my grandparents did this for all of the fifth grade. They’ve come to everything: my field trips, awards ceremonies. I’m excited about moving on to middle school, but I’m kind of nervous, too.”
It was the students who selected a grizzly bear as the mascot for Gerard Elementary when it opened in 1985, Carolyn Cody said, who was the school’s first principal.
“We had a contest among the students,” Cody said. “They chose the school colors and the mascot. The student council ramrodded the contest, with the kids voting on what they wanted. I think they liked having a mascot that had that same ‘grrr’ sound as Gerard.”
Carla (Tribble) Fenn, now a teacher at Smith Middle School, was Gerard’s student council president in that first year and was thrilled to learn of a permanent Grizzly on campus.
“How exciting,” Fenn said. “I can still remember those early morning student council meetings. I remember Mrs. Cody talking to us about how important selecting the mascot was because it would represent the students for years to come. We brainstormed all kids of ideas, but in the end, all the students agreed that the Grizzly was perfect.”
Gerard Principal Tracy White said the gift was a great legacy to be left by two very involved grandparents, as a gift of the Gerard fifth grade.
“We look forward to seeing these fifth graders come back as members of the Cleburne High School Class of 2026,” White said. “When they have their graduation walk at their elementary school, they will be able to come by and visit their bear.”
Gerard fifth-graders posed with their statue on the last day of school. It will take up residence in the front of the school in early June, following completion of a cement base.