Cude Family Cherishes Friends, Family in University Park

They’ve seen neighbors come and go, along with Snider Plaza’s spudnuts and the chicken salad sandwiches at Ralph’s Fine Foods. But members of the Cude family, who have lived in University Park for four generations, say that the heart of the community hasn’t changed at all.

“We’ve seen a lot of change,” John Cude said, “and very little change.”

When one of the three Cude grandkids fell off his bike, a neighbor called his mom, Jen Clifton, to give her a heads-up. There’s always someone to give the kids a ride home and to look out for them if something could be wrong.

“People notice,” Clifton said, “and care.”

It’s that sense of community that has kept the Cude family in University Park for almost 90 years.

Eva and J. Harold Cude were the first family members to arrive in University Park in the 1930s when they moved into a newly built home at 4117 Stanford Ave. Eva, an SMU grad, and Harold had met when the pair went on a joint blind date with Eva’s friend Gladybelle Bandy. Eva decided that Harold was the better-looking of the two dates and beat Gladybelle to the door.

Their son, John Cude, married his Highland Park classmate Sandra Graham. Even though the two had gone to school together, they didn’t connect until after graduation when Sandra, who was working at Nieman Marcus, went looking for brown ink and found John, then a dental school student, behind the counter at Stewart Office Supply.

John and Sandra lived on Binkley before moving into a house in the University Park Elementary attendance zone. However, for John, who had gone to Hyer Elementary, the location wasn’t an easy choice.

“Our probably biggest argument was when we started looking at this house, and it wasn’t in Hyer,” Sandra, who went to University Park Elementary, said from the living room where they still live. “I tease him that I won, but he really loved the house.”

Their children, Jen and Hampton, grew up playing outside with the neighborhood kids. Jen remembers her grandfather on the Graham side, affectionately known as “Good Daddy,” walking over daily to spend time with her and her brother. The neighborhood kids would all pile into his car for special trips to 7-Eleven or McDonald’s. Jen said her grandparents drove carpool, attended sporting events and recitals, and got to know her friends and their families.

“So many of my memories are of my grandparents just being a part of our everyday life,” Jen said, “just constantly at our house, or we were at their house.”

Eva, who frequently hosted her grandchildren or came to stay with her son and daughter-in-law, was known for dressing up in a witch costume, complete with yellow kitchen gloves, to hand out candy at Halloween.

Today, Sandra and John carry on the Halloween tradition, with Sandra as a witch with kitchen gloves and John as a vampire. John, a dentist who still practices at University Park Dental on Sherry Lane, has even made his own teeth for the costume.

Hampton now lives in Austin but returns frequently to the community where he was raised. He’s a proud uncle to Jen’s kids and helps his parents as much as he can.

“He’s very much like Good Daddy,” Sandra said.

Jen, who married her sweetheart from Highland Park High School, moved back to University Park when their oldest son was an infant. Today, their home is an easy walk from both her and her husband’s parents.

“We have certainly worn out Boedeker walking back and forth to each other’s homes in high school, and now our kids do so going between both grandparents’ homes on Boedecker,” Jen said.

Jen followed in her mother’s footsteps and served as president of the University Park Preschool Association. The two youngest Clifton children became Boone Elementary Bulldogs when HPISD redrew its attendance zones in 2020, and today, Jen is active in the Boone PTA.

The Clifton kids, Jen said, have the same connection to their grandparents as she did growing up. Their grandparents drive carpool, take the children fishing in Caruth Park, and volunteer in the cafeteria. Jen’s fourth-grade son and his friends sometimes at her mother-in-law’s house before biking to school.

The family loves running into friends and their extended families. Sometimes, friends share their memories of times with Jen’s grandparents in the “small little circle” that is University Park.

“You’ve got everything you want in a big city,” Jen said. “But it feels like a very small town.”

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