May-June 2013

A tribute to Mark Hasse and Mike and Cynthia McLelland

Bruce Bryant

Chief Investigator, ­Criminal District ­Attorney’s Office in Kaufman County

It was just two months ago that many of us gathered in Terrell to say goodbye to our friend and colleague Mark Hasse. Who could have thought we would need to do the same so soon, this time for Mike and Cynthia McLelland?
    They were two of the finest people it will ever be our privilege to know. Our lives are richer for having known them. We are lessened by their passing. Cynthia and Mike McLelland, two lives well spent.
    Cynthia, Mike, my wife, Fran, and I became friends because I had the pleasure and good fortune of working with their son Nathan when we both served with the Dallas Police Department. Cynthia and Mike were our friends from the moment we met them. It felt like we had known each other for 20 years. It was a special connection that only happens once or twice in a lifetime. From our first meeting until the last Sunday of their lives, many of our happiest moments were spent in their company. It didn’t matter if we were together at each other’s homes, at an American Legion meeting, or sitting around a table at our favorite Italian restaurant, those were happy times.
    Cynthia was all warmth and good cheer. She loved to entertain. I doubt she was happier than when she had a house full of friends and family, with everyone enjoying a delicious meal and the talk was flowing. Religion, politics, war stories, and quilts—anything and everything was open for discussion. Cynthia was a quilter. I would never have imagined there was such a thing as a quilt retreat, but because of her I learned such a thing does exist. A whole weekend spent quilting. It’s sheer bliss for quilters.
        Last year Cynthia presented us with a beautiful quilted “Merry Christmas” wall hanging. Fran was overjoyed to receive such a gift. It went up the day after Thanksgiving and didn’t come down until almost Valentine’s Day. It was special when we received it and it’s even more so now. We’ll proudly display it again this Christmas and for all Christmases to come.
    If Cynthia was all warmth and motherhood, Mike was a warrior. Mike proudly served his state and country. Mike was an officer in the United States Army, a reserve deputy sheriff and a criminal district attorney. His army stories were the best: like the time at basic training at Fort Benning when his drill sergeant complimented him on his “war face.” Or at ROTC summer camp in Oklahoma where he survived the heat on a diet of Cokes and candy bars, or when serving with the 8th Infantry Division in Germany as a brand new second lieutenant, tested by an army still recovering from the trauma of Vietnam. He had great stories. He loved to tell tales of his adventures and I loved listening to them. A couple weeks ago he promised to tell me about some of the places he had never “officially” been. I’ll have to wait awhile to hear those stories.
    I’m sure everyone saw Mike on TV after Mark’s murder. My friends and relatives that live out of state would ask me if my boss was “the guy in the cowboy hat.”  I would tell them that was Mike. What I didn’t tell them was that I was probably responsible for that big black cowboy hat he wore. I’m the commander of the American Legion Post in Terrell. Mike was my first vice commander. Last Memorial Day Mike assisted me in laying a wreath during a service at the Terrell Veterans Memorial. Mike was wearing a cap that’s the official headgear prescribed for members of the American Legion. It’s not a bad-looking cap but it doesn’t do anything to tame the Texas sun. The service started about noon and it was hot. By the time we were done Mike was thoroughly cooked. I think he went out the very next day and bought that cowboy hat and he wore it everyday thereafter. Even though Mike was a native Texan the sun was not his friend. He told me after he bought the black hat his grandmother once asked him why he was wearing a hat with a 6-inch brim. He told her because he couldn’t find a hat with a 10-inch brim! I did give him some grief over that big black hat. I told him he was one of the good guys and should be wearing a white hat. But he was loyal to his hat and wouldn’t change.     
    Cynthia and Mike were deeply in love with each other. Many people in the last few days have commented on that. I’ve heard remarks like, “They had a love affair”; “They were always holding hands”; “Cynthia was devoted to Mike”; and “Mike was so protective of Cynthia.” It was obvious they loved each other and they were happy together. And now, together for all eternity, they have left us. They lived together, died together, and will be buried together. Cynthia’s cremated remains rest in Mike’s casket. Together for all time.   
    Mike told me on numerous occasions when things got rough, “Soldier on.” I promise that we will soldier on.

On Mark Hasse
I had the privilege of working one-on-one with Mark for the last year of his life. I was the investigator assigned to the 422nd District Court; Mark was the lead ADA for that court. Mark was a lot of fun to work with. The courtroom was his natural element. He and one other lawyer are the two best trial attorneys I’ve ever seen. He did great opening and closing arguments—without notes! It was just a pleasure watching him work the room during trial.
    Mark was a great storyteller. He was a very pleasant companion to have lunch with or just chat with in the office. Mark had the energy of two men. He was constantly flying up and down the stairs in the courthouse to deliver a file or get something needed for a case. The door to my office would bust open and Mark would come tearing in with his standard greeting of “Dude.” I miss hearing that. I miss him terribly.