WOOD COUNTY — Friends are organizing efforts to help the four children of two East Texas parents who were killed in a Thanksgiving Day house fire in the Hawkins area.

Courtney Jean Cline Mendez, 30, and Benjamin Mendez Jr., 34, both of Mineola, were killed in the fire, while their four children survived.

Dallas Cadenhead got his three little sisters, Ellicia Mendez, Maci Cadenhead and Elizabeth Mendez, out of the burning home. He also tried to fight the fire and help get Cline and Mendez out, Teresa Wright, Cline’s mother, said. Cline is the mother of Dallas and Maci, while Mendez is the father of Ellicia and Elizabeth.

The fire at the home in the 1100 block of County Road 3859 in Wood County was reported at 11:55 p.m., said Tully Davidson, Wood County fire marshal and emergency management coordinator.

Wright said the fire had started in a small chimney and was believed to be extinguished, but somehow ignited after the parents went to bed.

One of the children noticed something was wrong and told Dallas, Wright said. He then got his siblings out and called the fire department. He tried to fight the flames and go back to help the adults, she said.

“He was trying to fight the fire back to get back in the house to get his mom and Ben,” Wright said.

Wright said her daughter and Mendez were trying to raise their kids in the best way they could.

“She was just a good person. Her and Ben both,” Wright said. “They were good people. They were trying to their best raising their kids and doing what needed to be done.”

Wright said the best way to donate money to help the kids is through a City National Bank special tragedy fund in Hawkins under her name for Dallas and Maci. There will be another fund for Ellicia and Elizabeth set up at the City National Bank in Gladewater.

Funeral services for Mendez and Cline will be 11 a.m. Friday at Croley Funeral Home in Gladewater. Interment will follow at Gladewater Memorial Park. The family will receive friends Friday from 10 a.m. until the service.

Cline enjoyed time with family and friends and was a devoted wife, mother, daughter, sister and homemaker, according to an obituary from the funeral home.

Mendez was a tool pusher for Davis Energy and also a sports fan who especially enjoyed watching the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers, according to the obituary. He was a hunter and fisherman who loved spending time with family and friends and making people laugh, the obituary stated.

The bodies were sent to Tyler for autopsies. The children are staying with family members.

The house is considered a total loss and the cause is being investigated but it does seem to be accidental, Davidson said.

Both are survived by Cline Mendez’s parents, Teresa Wright and Chuck Spears and Edward and Kelly Cline; Mendez’s parents, Janet and Benjamin Mendez Sr.; their children, Chance Mendez, Dallas Cadenhead, Ellicia Mendez, Maci Cadenhead and Elizabeth Mendez; Cline Mendez’s siblings, Kendra Michelle Bynog, Amilya Ann Cline, Douglas Weathersby and Dakota Wayne Cline; Mendez’s siblings Johnathan Gage, Ashley Mendez, April Ruiz and Daisy Trujillo; as well as other family members and friends.


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I came to the Tyler Morning Telegraph in September 2019. I report on crime, courts, breaking news and various events in Tyler and East Texas.