The Orange County community and State of Texas lost a major agricultural asset with the passing of Ruben Stringer last week on Monday, Aug. 12. He will be sorely missed in Hamshire-Fannett next week when school starts as he has been teaching there since 1998.

There are two things of which there is no doubt; Stringer loved agriculture and Stringer loved teaching about agriculture. He taught thousands of students for over half a century. He not only taught the students; he taught the teachers. Stringer has also been a strong force in water and soil conservation education.

Besides teaching, Stringer was also the technical assistant for the Lower Sabine-Neches Soil and Water Conservation District #446 since 1986.

“Education is Ruben’s middle name,” said friend and co-worker Pat Hudson. “He’s probably still teaching.”

Stringer’s love for the land began in the ninth grade when he enrolled in agriculture and joined the Future Farmers of America (FFA) in Jasper. He immediately started working with hands-on projects that included plants and animals. He excelled at showing steers, and in judging and leadership contests. Twice he was on state winning teams.

Also, that freshman year, he was selected to raise a demonstration acre of corn. Furnished with seed and a ton of fertilizer, Stringer produced a yield 700 percent higher than normal in that community, and under drought conditions. Needless to say, he was hooked.

After graduation from Jasper High School in 1952, he enrolled in Sam Houston State University. Stringer attended classes and worked 40 hours a week in a grocery store. He received the Lowry Award for “Outstanding Agricultural Student” in 1957. In just five years, he graduated with a master’s degree in Agricultural Education.

Answering Uncle Sam’s call, he served the country for six years in the armed service and reserves before beginning his teaching career.

In 1958 he began teaching at Mauriceville High School, 10 years before they merged with Little Cypress. Stringer taught there for 35 years. He took a brief break from teaching, and then returned to the classroom when offered the part-time position at Hamshire-Fannett in 1998 by Mike Broussard. Broussard started his teaching career under Stringer at Little Cypress-Mauriceville as a student teacher. He was under Stringer for three years and later moved to H-F. When H-F decided to add a part-time teacher, Broussard seized the opportunity to bring in his mentor and friend.

“Through Ruben’s efforts, conservation contests in forestry, land and forage evaluation for 4-H and FFA students have grown from an average of five schools participation in the 1980s, to over 35 schools presently,” said Broussard.

Through Stringers’ work with the conservation district he developed poster and essay contests to teach youngsters about conservation of our natural resources.

Essays from students through 2005 have netted a national winner in rice field water management, state winners in forestry and wildlife conservation in two different age groups and three state winners in soil; all under Stringers tutelage.

The poster contest each year has 600-1,000 entries in the district division. The top three move on to the state level.

His conservation program also included three field days per year.

‘March for the Parks’ has an average attendance of over 600 students and teachers. Held at Claiborne West Park, participants visit 15 learning stations to update students on conservation topics relating from fire ant control, forestry, water, wildlife, to recycling projects.

The ‘Environmental Workshop’ has been held the last 15 years during the summer. It has given students from six area schools the opportunity to participate interactively at various locations, learning more about timber, water, soil, and air resources.

‘Agriculture Awareness Day’ is held each year which provides a broad range of agricultural activities, in a hands-on, educational setting.

Stringer also conducted annual teachers’ workshops for participants from all over the state to earn continuing education credits. The workshops were built around natural resource conservation methods and attitudes.

Many of Stringer’s students have gone on to careers in land management and several state agencies.

One of Stringer’s first students, Floron “Buddy” Faires Jr. now sports the title of doctor and is a veterinary professor at Texas A&M. He gives credit for his success to Stinger. When Stringer noticed Faires’ natural ability with science and animals, he drove him to A&M to meet the faculty. He sketched out a plan that helped Faires get into college and the veterinarian program early.

“He doesn’t just teach you in class and then forger about you,” said Faires.

Dr. Faires gave the eulogy at Stringers funeral Saturday.

Conservation District #446 credits Stringer with “reintroducing the conservation of natural resources to the farmers and ranchers of Orange and Jefferson Counties.”

Stringer is responsible for over 25 adult winners from our area in categories such as Homemaker, Farmer, Rancher and Conservationist of the Year. Each year he would write submissions for citizens that have played a major part in conservation. Orange County has received much statewide recognition because of his efforts.

Stringer was named ‘Conservation Teacher of the Year’ in Texas in both 1972 and 1986. In 2003, he received the honor as State Soil Conservation District ‘Employee of the Year.’ He received countless other honors including ‘Orange County Senior Citizen of the Year’ at the recent Senior Citizens Rally Day organized by the Orange County AgriLIFE extension office.

Though he has been honored numerous times, Stringer was a humble man that didn’t like the limelight. He preferred to help others receive recognition. It was not uncommon for those honoring Stringer having to resort to a ruse in an effort to get him to the event. If he knew he was getting an award, he likely would not show.

“Ruben is not a ‘Type A’ personality, but rather a rare breed. He does what he does for others only,” said a nomination letter from the SWCD board in 2005.

“Ruben leads by kindness and understanding. Ruben gets people involved by patiently teaching them about natural resource conservation to the point that they feel it is their duty to be good stewards of our natural resources. Ruben had the ‘One World’ concept many years before it became popular.”

The board said Stringer was the most knowledgeable man they knew when it pertains to natural resource conservation.

“He was a library of information,” said longtime friend J.B. Arrington. “He was my personal source for people and events. He must have stored tons of information in his computer mind. If you wanted a number, forget the telephone book just call Ruben.”

Stringer was also a bit of a prankster with a wry sense of humor. Hudson said he always looked forward to any trip he had to make with Stringer. He knew he was going to have a good time on the way there and on the way back.

His humor was with him to the end. While Stringer was filling out paperwork at the hospital, his son told him to make sure it was legible. Stringer leaned over to his daughter-in-law and said, “It ain’t my writing. He can’t read.”

“Mr. Ruben Stringer has been and always will be my hero, and many others will say the same,” said Broussard. “He has been a mentor, role model and a true friend to each and every individual he has been associated with since coming to Orange County in 1958.”

There is a saying that when a senior dies; it’s like a library burning down. That could never be truer in Stringer’s case. Stringer has made a significant contribution towards the conservation of our natural resources. He will be missed. He cannot be replaced.

About Penny LeLeux

Penny has worked at The Record Newspapers since 2006. A member of the editorial staff, she has "done everything but print it." Most frequently she writes entertainment reviews and human interest stories, with a little paranormal thrown in from time to time.She has been a lifelong member of the Orangefield community.