Big Shoes To Fill

Hanging up one of his many hats: Iredell’s devoted volunteer and “Hometown Hero” Bradley Fletcher retires as longtime Ag Education teacher after 24 years

IREDELL – Hometown hero and pillar of the community, Iredell’s Bradley Fletcher exemplifies a man who wears many hats – whether it’s Fire Chief of the Iredell Volunteer Fire Department, Major Pro-Tem for Iredell’s City Council, youth baseball coach and coordinator of the town’s beautiful Field of Flags. As of June 30, Fletcher hung up one hat that he has worn for 24 years, retiring as the Ag Science Teacher at Iredell Independent School District.

Ag teachers are a cog in the nationwide Future Farmers of America, which demands superior leadership from Ag teachers and their students. With the blue and yellow icing on the cake wishing him a happy retirement at his retirement party June 17, Fletcher demonstrated his deep connection to the FFA.

On the hot June afternoon, the rustic barn venue with swamp misters trying their darndest to offer some cool air reminded those present of the hot, hot days waiting to enter the show ring at a livestock show. There were no high-brow speeches, just good old-fashioned fellowship represented in the meeting and greeting between friends and family. And there was cake, plenty of other food and cooled beverages.

The FFA organization believes success in life starts with mentorship. And in speaking with former students, Fletcher offered excellent mentorship to the many students that passed through his Ag Science classes. Nick Hurbough, his successor, clearly has big shoes to fill replacing a much-loved, respected and admired colleague, teacher and community member.

Interestingly, Fletcher himself had big shoes to fill when his successor Bob Andrews who had taught in Iredell for over 30 years.

In Texas, hard-working agriculture, food and natural resources teachers are empowering students through the gifts of knowledge, drive, and confidence. Thanks to their dedication, the future of Texas students has never been brighter. Following the slogan “Everything is Bigger and Better in Texas,” the Texas FFA today is the United States’ largest state FFA association with more than 156,000 members.

Texas FFA evolved from an organization focusing primarily on production agriculture, to a broader-based organization that addresses the needs and interests of students. FFA gives students the opportunity to apply practical classroom knowledge to real world experiences through ongoing enrichment opportunities. Agricultural education provides students with opportunities for leadership development, personal growth and career success.

This shift can also be seen in the evolvement of the Agricultural Education in Iredell. Andrews was more “shop-oriented,” offering the students many vocational skills which were practical in the rural ranch and farm community they lived in, like learning to service vehicles, learning welding skills to make or repair agricultural and other equipment. Under Fletcher’s tutelage, more leadership and livestock project-oriented courses were added to the program.

Not only in Iredell, but across Bosque County the old guard of Ag teachers is making way for a wave of a new generation of Ag teachers. And invariably they bring with them new approaches to fulfilling the FFA creed, believing in The FFA Creed, believing in the future of agriculture with the promise of better days through better ways.

“I would tell them each year, that when they got through Ag, they would know a little about fencing, something about carpentry and welding and taking care of livestock projects,” Fletchers said. “I just hope I made some positive impact on the kids, even if it was only one kid.”

He would also teach them that even though they might not have won with their animal in the show arena, if they trusted they had done the best job they could in raising, training and showing their animal they could hold their head high and be proud of their achievements – in a humble kind of pride.

And the gathering gave Fletcher the opportunity to show the collection of annual Iredell FFA T-shirts to those there, like students past and present, ranging in age from 13 to 42. A recurring slogan on the T-shirts was “Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve. Some commented that they hated the year the T-shirts were orange, because “they made us look like traffic cones.”

Also present were several Ag students of Iredell’s 2023 graduating class – six out of the 10 seniors participated in Agricultural education. They only had glowing words to say about their beloved teacher, who strove to push their limits and increase their overall confidence. “He always went above and beyond what was asked of him,” McKenzie Skipper said. Sierra Potter felt he lit up the room. Her sister Sage loved that he treated all his students like his own kids.

As FFA advisor, Fletcher worked closely with the Bosque County AgriLife Extension Office. Working him for the past nine years, Ag Agent Chelsea Dorward often got to witness his sense of humor, and him going above and beyond to help youth during livestock shows, even if they were not his own FFA students. She recalled that he never once yelled, “But his voice carries well,” and that he could often be found at the show ring entrance, lining the youth up, keeping them moving.

Fletcher’s son Kevin, along with Jamey Chaffin, were students from his first school year teaching at Iredell in 1999-2000. Chaffin’s favorite memory of that year was attending the FFA State Convention as an area officer after graduation. Kevin Fletcher remembered building a 12-foot trailer, which nearly took up the entire Ag workshop space.

Bradley Fletcher and his two brothers all studied Ag Education in college. While his brothers taught straight out of college and then moving on to other careers, Fletcher graduated from Tarleton State University in 1981 and started off as ranch foreman before taking up teaching. Once he began his teaching career in Iredell, he stayed.

“I taught for 24 years and never wanted to leave,” Fletcher said. “Iredell was the only place I wanted to be. The small town atmosphere, knowing everybody and able to be a part of the community and make a difference and hopefully make it better. You will not find a better class of people who take pride in their community.”

He went on to say that the wonderful parents of his students made his job a lot easier. “The parents of all three generations of kids I taught have been awesome,” Fletcher said. “They are all about the kids and it is incredible what they put into it for them.”

Besides being a beloved and well-respected educator, Fletcher embodied another part of the FFA creed which says “I believe that American agriculture can and will hold true to the best traditions of our national life and that I can exert an influence in my home and community which will stand solid for my part in that inspiring task.”

In 2018, Fletcher received a Bosque County Volunteer Award for his efforts leading youth organizations, raising support or funds for youth activities and scholarships, or mentoring youth. Fletcher could always be seen at the Bosque County Hay Show and the Iredell Youth Support Group raising funds for scholarships and livestock projects.

“He is one of the people in his community who unselfishly does so much to give back,” the nomination said. “It doesn’t matter how busy his life is with raising his kids and his job, he is always right there ready for service. If it weren’t for this man, so much would be missed in this community. And he does it all and never seeks appreciation or reward.”

According to those nominating Fletcher, Iredell is very fortunate to have such a caring person at their service, and he has truly had an impact on Iredell and the people who live there. If there’s a fire, he’s there. If a kid needs help playing baseball, he’s teaching them. If there’s a fundraiser, he’s there to help. If there’s a car accident, he’s there. If the city has a little or large problem or a need, he’s there to offer help.

As if that’s not enough, Fletcher also puts the flags out on Memorial Day, July 4th and Veterans Day on the Iredell Field of Flags. Additionally, Fletcher received recognition as a “Hometown Hero” on June 15, 2022 at a Cleburne Railroaders baseball game.

At the retirement party, everybody tipped their hats to their hometown hero, a pillar of the community. But they know it is only a partial retirement – because he is still going to be around doing all the other things he does for his community and school. For example, Fletcher has been Iredell’s Fire Chief for the past 40 years, and he will only hang up that head gear “when they run me out.” With many, many plans lined up, it does not seem Fletcher will be bored any time soon. Fletcher still intends to be a school bus driver, painter of the football field, help out with maintenance at the school and act as substitute teacher, he is also off to new horizons.

But with a little more time on his hands now, he hopes to be able to attend his grandchildren’s events, like marching band, One-Act Play and football. And there are places to visit, like Montana and Wyoming. There are football games to see – Notre Dame for one and any game at Lambeau Field. Closer to home, a visit the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg is on the list. But his first trip will be to Ohio to reunite his son Garrett with his dog.


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