Utah Hall of Fame Award Honorees

The Utah Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum honors men and women whose lives exemplify the independence and resilience of the people who settled Utah. The honor includes artists, champions, entertainers, musicians, ranchers, writers and those persons, past and present, who have promoted the western way of life. Submissions in consideration for this year’s class are due by March 31, 2024. Applications and instructions for submission can be found on the museums website.

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Utah Cowboy and Western Heritage Hall of Fame • 2023 Honorees

Blue Stone

A person could always tell that Blue was meant to be a rodeo champion. He was the Utah High School Rodeo Association Bull Riding Champion in 1996, after which he attended the College of Southern Idaho where he finished as a reserved champion. Throughout his career, he won some of the largest PRCA rodeos including the coveted Cheyenne Frontier Days and the Reno Rodeo. His greatest achievements were two back-to-back National Finals Rodeo World Bull riding Championships in 2001 and 2002. He was the first cowboy to do this since Donny Gay two decades earlier.

Blue loved bull riding more than life, but his love for the sport of rodeo was beyond that. He loved the sport so much that his house became a host hotel for cowboys during the summer months. Blue was more than willing to share his talents and spend time with the youth, and mentored such standouts such as Jared Jacques, Jerry Shepard, Wesley Silcox, and Steve Woolsey to name a few. He also partnered with local stock contractors to hold bull riding schools. These cowboys and others where the direct results of Blue Stone’s knowledge and legacy.

Dennis Kunz

Denny was born in Ogden, UT on October 20, 1954. Raised on the small family farm, he was the middle child of 3 boys to Milford Jr. and Darlene Kunz.
When Denny was a young man, he wanted to be a calf roper. He worked for Country Boy Dairy and sold golf balls and lemonade to the golfers at the nearby golf course. He saved his money to purchase bottle calves from the dairy and cobbled together an arena to practice in. Nonetheless, calf roping took more money than he made. Fortunately, he found his talent for riding bucking horses.

Denny competed in bareback and saddle bronc riding and occasionally bull riding during the slow season.

Hard work and determination made him one of the top bucking horse riders in his day. From 1977 to 1985 Denny’s rough stock accomplishments included these and more:

  • Eastern Utah Rodeo Association: All Around Champion
  • Rocky Mountain Rodeo Association: All-Around and Bareback Champion
  • 1979- NCA Bareback Champion

Denny ‘s rodeo career didn’t end when he retired from riding broncs. He became a rodeo pick-up man working for the Cowboy’s Rodeo Commission, Rocky Mountain Rodeo Association (RMRA) and Broken Heart Rodeos. He was consecutively named Pick-up Man of the Year and at the RMRA Finals from 1986-1997.

Denny was a horse trader. He learned to “Buy fair and every now and then, reach down and pick up an acorn”’ from Archie Anderson. Denny rented the coliseum to buck the horses as practice for young riders. He was an excellent mentor and teacher, helping many cowboys reach their rodeo goals. In recent years Denny provided roping stock for the RMRA.

Denny ranched with his family running ~500 head of cattle on the Goshute Reservation near the Utah/Nevada border. Riding through blistering heat, freezing blizzards and dust storms, the days were long in the saddle. Even so to Denny quitting wasn’t an option. His determination and character defined what true grit was.

Denny was married 28 years to Donna (Gussie) Palmer and together they have a daughter, Stephanie, and son, Dennis Kincade.
“Denny Kunz didn’t start out with the traditional cowboy raising, born on a ranch, working cows from dawn to dusk. Yet in his life he did all those things. Starting from a self-made roper, rodeo rider, pick up man, stock producer and ail-around friend of the cowboy and horse community. “(Vicki Woodward)

The rodeo, western, and ranching community lost a truly unique and unforgettable champion with Denny’s passing on April 30, 2021

KYLE KOSOFF

Kyle Kosoff grew up in West Haven, Utah on the back of a horse with a rope in his hand. He is the proud father of three children, Kwade, Kolt, and Kwincee, and husband to Misti (Smith). Kyle is employed by Weber County Transportation driving a special education route, works at Smith & Edwards, and manages the family farm. He’s also a craftsman leatherworker, enjoying all types of leather projects.

Following graduation from Weber High School, Kyle attended Weber State University on a rodeo scholarship, and graduated with a Bachelor of Integrated Studies degree.

Kyle has enjoyed success at every level of rodeo. In 1981, while in high school, he bought his Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) permit and started a successful career as a professional tie-down roper. His list of rodeo championships and accomplishments is long, including:

  • 1981 National High School Tie Down Roping Champion
  • 1984 National Intercollegiate Rodeo Tie Down Champion
  • 1982-85 Rocky Mountain Region Intercollegiate Tie Down Champion
  • 1993 PRCA Dodge/RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo Tie Down Champion
  • 9 times PRCA Wilderness Circuit Tie Down Champion
  • 11 times PRCA Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo Tie Down Qualifier

Kyle exemplifies what it is to be a true horseman and has had the privilege to raise and train numerous incredible rope horses. Training with patience, respect, and a soft hand results in his horses loving what they do, many of which have gone on to help other tie-down ropers achieve success in the rodeo arena. Kyle’s willingness to help others is commendable. Throughout the years he has conducted roping schools where he thoroughly enjoys sharing his love and knowledge of roping with others. His students are taught with patience, positivity, and fun, building confidence in their ability.

Kyle is humble and always willing to lend a helping hand; he is a friend to all he meets. His generosity, optimism and giving heart has helped many others along the way. Kyle is still passionate about roping and training horses, however, he is now more focused on his family and enjoys helping his children pursue their hobbies.

“What makes Kyle Kosoff so special is he makes everyone feel like they are important, like they are a champion!!”
Glen Black

“I believe in life that there are individuals who are willing to give all they have to those around them, and Kyle is definitely one of those individuals.”
Marty Thompson

Rusty Allen

From the time he was three years old, Rusty Allen knew that he wanted to ride bucking horses. He officially started his rodeo career in the ninth grade when he joined the Utah State High School Rodeo association, competing in bareback and bull riding, calf and team roping. He won the Utah State High School bull riding championship and qualified for the National High School Rodeo finals his freshman year.

The following summer, Rusty traded a custom-made youth saddle to Lewis Field for his first bronc saddle. Lewis gave him some basic instruction, his dad taught him how to get off using a pickup man, he attended a Ty Murray school, and entered the saddle bronc riding at the high school rodeos that fall. Rusty won two state bronc riding championships and qualified for the National High School Rodeo Finals the following three years. Rusty worked both ends of the arena, also qualifying for the finals in steer wrestling and team roping.  He served as the UHSRA student president his senior year. During his high school years he also competed in the Rocky Mountain Rodeo Association rodeos winning two year-end saddle bronc riding championships.

In 1993 Rusty bought his Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association permit and began attending Weber State University on a rodeo scholarship, majoring in mechanical engineering. For the next four years he led the Weber State’s men’s team in points and qualified for the College National Finals in the saddle bronc riding, bull riding, calf roping, and steer wrestling. During that time travel to PRCA rodeos was limited to summer but he went to all the rodeos he could make.

Once college graduation and a mechanical engineering degree was secured, Rusty set out to attain his life-long goal of making the National Finals Rodeo. While being a “full-time” professional rodeo cowboy Rusty also held down a full-time job in a family business where he managed employees, drove semis, and maintaining equipment.

The year 2004 was magical. Rusty won some great rodeos, made amazing rides, and qualified for his first NFR. He placed in six of ten rounds, and left Vegas with a couple of broken ribs and an amazing smile. Four more NFR qualifications came consecutively in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008; adream come true for any cowboy! The following three years Rusty suffered injuries finishing 16th, 17thand 18th in the World Standings

Rusty was elected and served as the PRCA saddle bronc director from 2012 – 2015, working diligently to make improvements for bronc riders and rodeo overall. One responsibility of this director position was selecting the stock and setting the nightly pens at the NFR. This involved watching the stock perform at the various rodeos throughout the year to ensure the best horses were selected and that every NFR performance was as fair as possible.

Following the 2015 NFR, after much soul searching, Rusty told his friends and parents that he thought it was time to retire from rodeo, utilize his engineering degree, and move on to a new career. In January 2016 he began working for Trebor International, as a mechanical engineer.

Rusty is still involved in and has a great love for the sport of rodeo. Being born into a three-generation rodeo family, he has carried on the family love and legacy and passed that passion on to his two daughters, Ashley and Sienna. Ashley competed in all the girls rodeo events while in Jr. High, High School, and College.  She has continued as an avid barrel racer.  Sienna is currently competing in high school rodeos in barrel racing and breakaway roping and planning a college rodeo career.

Rusty currently serves as an advisor to the UHSRA  Board of Directors for the rough stock events. His primary concern is the education and safety of the participants. He recently teamed up with a past NFR bareback rider and bull rider to instruct a school for the high school rough stock competitors. He spends his off-work time with family and friends team roping, snow and water skiing, hiking, and anything else that creates a challenge and adventure.

Suzzanne Fausett Huffman

Suzzanne grew up on a ranch in Ft. Duchesne, Utah along with three older brothers. At an early age she began riding and was involved in showing Paint horses. She learned and developed her riding and horsemanship skills as she advanced to High School, Intercollegiate, and Professional Rodeo competition.

Suzzanne has dedicated much of her life to the improvement of horsemanship and public relations for the world of Women’s Professional Rodeo. She was the first woman to represent Utah at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, qualifying and competed four times– 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1988. This was a pivotal point of putting Utah women on the map in the world of professional barrel racing.

Not only was Suzzanne a competitor she also served as the Wilderness Circuit Director on the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association board. As a WPRA director, Suzzanne was always looking for ways to improve the sport of rodeo for women. She took on the task of getting equal pay and additional added money for women’s barrel racing. This involved working countless hours with Pro-rodeo committees to acquire more sanctioned barrel races at their rodeos. Suzzanne also supports local 4-H groups, barrel races, and other youth organizations and groups.

Along with her husband Jake, she enjoys living on the Fausett Ranch, where they produce and sell foals to barrel racing hopefuls. Together they have three beautiful daughters, Katelyn, Dianne, and Libby.

“A good barrel horse is born, not made. They love what they are doing, they are aggressive, and crave speed.”
Suzzanne Fausett Huffman

View Previous Years’ Honorees

2022

 Barbara and Neil Merrill

Barbara was born and raised in Lehi, Utah, daughter of Ferron and Florence Olson. Her champion roper father started Barbara on a horse at an early age. In high school she competed in five events and qualified for High School Nationals Finals each year of eligibility. She was a two time Utah State Championship Breakaway Roper and Girls All Around Championship as a senior.

Neil was born and raised in Salem, Utah, son of Freeborn (Jack) and Ruth Merrill. As a teenager, Neil began riding with his best friend Bob Davis. Bob’s father, Sterling, taught Neil horsemanship, roping and bulldogging. In college Neil was named the Regional Champion Steer Wrestler. 

Neil and Barbara were married in 1976 and welcomed their son Corey in 1977. As with most young couples, money was tight, so to pay the bills, Neil took a job in a machine shop. Little did this young couple know that the skills Neil developed while employed as a machinist would later place them into a position that would impact the equine industry worldwide.

Barbara had an idea for a barrel racing bit and Neil, through trial and error was able to make it. Soon friends and competitors alike wanted the “Merrill Bits”. Additionally Barbara and Neil designed and made the “Merrill Saddle” and “Merrill Saddle Pad” both of which were developed with the horse in mind.

Their desire for improving rodeo ground conditions lead them to come up with a design for a self-leveling implement that practically runs itself. With the “Black Widow Arena Drag” the ground is now safer and faster being widely used by private and municipal arenas, equestrian event producers, and rodeo committees nationwide.

In 1986 Barbara trained a horse she believed could win at the national level, so Neil quit his job and they went on the road. Their hard work and efforts paid off in 1992 & 1993 when Barbara won the Wilderness Circuit Barrel Racing Championship and also qualified for the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, NV. As Barbara ran down the alley at the Thomas & Mack Arena you can bet Neil ran every step with her.

The Merrill’s resistance free horse training program encourages riders to find the method that works best for them and their horse. “What matters most is what the horse thinks of it”, is their philosophy. 

The union of Neil and Barbara Merrill is an example of commitment and companionship. Taking the time to learn, understand and truly care is not only what Neil and Barbara Merrill have done and teach, it is who they are.

“Life gives us all some lessons and faith can sustain us through the tuff times and temper our successes with gratitude. All inspiration and success comes through us not from us.” Neil Merrill

Ben German Rodeo Producer, Stock Contractor 

Ben was born February of 1969 on a military base in White Sands, New Mexico. His father was an army veteran who served in Vietnam, and his mother is a retired Ogden City dispatcher. Ben grew up in Roy, Utah where he graduated from Roy High School in 1987. In 1989 he married his high school sweetheart, Jennifer and together they have three children, Jordan, Ashton, and Wyatt. They have been married for 33 years and currently live in West Haven. 

As owner of the Broken Heart Rodeo Company Ben produces over 100 rodeo performances annually for RMPRA, UHSRA, NIRA, and numerous open rodeos. He has won countless awards for his outstanding bucking stock, some of which have made appearances at the National Finals Rodeo. 

In a partnership with Weber County, Ben produces the Intermountain Icebreaker and Kickin’ Corona rodeos. The Ice breaker is in its 11th year and hosts over 1,000 contestants from 17 different states and Canada. Kickin’ Corona held in 2020 was one of the few rodeos that provided an opportunity for junior high and high school competitors an opportunity to compete. Ben understands that the future of rodeo lies solely with our youth and does what he can to support them. 

During his time as a USHRA Board Member, the balance of the general fund went from 10k to over 150k. In addition, with Ben’s oversight the scholarship account had ~ 250k to award rodeo athletes upon his departure. 

Above all else, Ben is a family man. His children and grandchildren are the love of his life—his pride and joy. Each of them help produce Broken Heart Rodeos in some way or another. 

When you become friends with Ben, you are friends for life. He is blessed to have countless life-long friends, many of which are from his involvement in rodeo. 

Ben has a tremendous love for the outdoors. Fishing and hunting are his favorite things to do when he gets time out of his busy schedule. 

“Ben has been such a huge part of the success of many Utah cowboys and cowgirls, including my family! The impact he has made in our state and with our youth and keeping the sport of rodeo alive and prosperous is second to none. Utah is known for having some of the most talented rodeo athletes in the nation and if you look into it, Ben has been a huge part of all of them”. Cody Wright, World Champion Cowboy 

“I know Ben to be a man of exceptional integrity and a man of his word. I have witnessed his large heart in action as he secretly paid for entry fees, has given away free tickets to his events and has gone out of his way to help the underprivileged. I have seen him fight to keep our western heritage alive and stand up for what is right and fair, even if it’s unpopular”. Wendy Dahl, Rodeo Secretary 

Dennis Montgomery 

“My goal has always been to make a difference,” said Dennis Montgomery in an article written for the NIRA Alumni Board of Directors. And make a difference is exactly what he did. 

Dennis graduated from Weber High School in 1971. He continued his education at Weber State College in the Paramedic Program, graduating in 1983. Dennis started his career in 1975 as a Police Chief of Huntsville, UT and continued in Public Safety for 40 years. He worked for Weber County Jail, Weber County and Ogden City fire districts, and Weber State University, with positions as a firefighter, EMT, SWAT member and Fire Marshall. 

Dennis held many elected/appointed office positions. He served on the EMT State Board, Weber County Planning Commission, IAAI and Weber Fire District Board (20 Years). His memberships are countless, but included career based memberships on a state and national level for EMT, paramedic, fire prevention and countless rodeo associations. 

He loved working with and mentoring the youth. For 10 years, he served as medical advisement and recruitment for Utah High School Rodeo, including local, state, and national levels. From 1996-2003 Dennis was the assistant Rodeo Coach for WSU women’s rodeo team and led them to a National Championship in 1997. As Head Rodeo Coach from 2003-2015 he again lead the Women’s Team to a National Championship in 2006. In 2008 Cody Wade competed at Nationals in Casper, WY winning the National Steer Wrestling Champion title under the guidance of the big guy, Dennis Montgomery. 

Dennis was the President of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association 2008-2010, being the first to serve a 2-year term. He was named National Coach of the Year in 2008 and the Rocky Mountain Region Coach of the Year in 2011. As the Rocky Mountain Region College Rodeo Faculty Director he helped support 11 colleges. Following his retirement in 2015, he continued to travel to Casper, WY to support current athletes, coaches and staff at the College National Finals Rodeo. 

Dennis served on the Ogden Pioneer Days Committee as the Event Parking Chairman beginning in 2014 until his passing in 2021. Pioneer Days spectators knew Dennis by name and enjoyed being greeted by him as they came through the west gate. 

He made a difference in the lives of all who knew him. 

Ken and Lynda Norris 

Ken and Lynda Norris spent most of their life in the small town of Cedar Fort, UT. They graduated from Lehi High School in 1960 and were married in 1961. Ken and Lynda have 4 children Jan, Kenny, Jami, and Brad. They also have 9 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. 

Jan, Kenny and Brad were involved in rodeo from a very young age and the western way of life was an important part of the Norris family. They traveled to numerous rodeos in support of their children. Ken and Lynda were also members of the Cedar Valley Riding Club. 

In 1974 they became advisors for the Lehi Longhorn Rodeo Club. In 1981 Lynda started as the State Secretary for the Utah High School Rodeo Association (UHSRA) and Ken took a position on the Utah High School Rodeo Board. They took part in decision making, office work and behind the scenes action for the UHSRA. 

From 1989-2008 Ken was the Utah National High School Rodeo Association Director. In those 19 years Ken and Lynda inspired many high school rodeo contestants. Ken was the National High School Rodeo President in 1998 and in 2002 received the National High School Rodeo Association “Man of the Year” award. This is given to the director who exhibits an outstanding example of leadership and positive influence on the youth of high school rodeo. 

Lynda was awarded Secretary of the Year by the NHSRA for her years of service to the UHSRA. 

Ken and Lynda developed the UHSRA point system that ensures Utah sends its top competitors to the nationals. 

The Norris’ embody grit, determination, kindness, integrity and selflessness that come with the western way of life. They dedicated a majority of their lives as positive leaders and examples for the young cowboys and cowgirls in Utah and across the nation. 

You wouldn’t find Ken without Lynda or Lynda without Ken. Together, the two of them left a legacy on high school rodeo that will never be forgotten.

Paul H. (Jaws) Knight 

Paul H. (“Jaws”) Knight was a cattleman from his birth in 1919 until his death in 2009. He lived his entire 90 years in Plain City, Utah. 

Paul was a World War II Veteran, serving in the South Pacific for 4 years. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal by the direction of the President of the United States by the Commanding General of the 41st Infantry Division for heroic achievement in connection with military operations against the enemy on Mindanao, Philippine Islands on March 15, 1945. 

Paul married June Maw on June 26, 1946. Together they raised three children, Curt Knight, Gwen Knight Moitzfield, and Russ Knight. They have four grandchildren and eight great- grandchildren. 

As a youth Paul drove a team of horses to West Warren with his father to work in the fields on the family farm. He ran his own dairy herd from 1946 until 1976. He then owned and operated a beef cow/calf herd from 1976 until 2008. 

Paul was very giving and enjoyed helping the youth. He provided the use of his calves to the students of Plain City Elementary to fit and show at the annual Plain City Dairy Days. 

In 1954 he joined the Rocky Mountain Rodeo Association and remained an active member and participant for over 25 years. During the 1960s, Paul organized many jackpot roping events with friends and associates held at his arena. He also provided team roping steers for many local rodeos throughout the area. 

From the 1960’s to the 1980’s Paul won numerous roping, team roping and Quarter Horse Association performance buckles and awards throughout the state. He was a consistent competitor and enjoyed working with his horses and associating with his rodeo friends. 

Paul was selected as the Grand Marshall of the Plain City 4th of July Parade in 2004 and was the first to be selected as Weber County Honoree at the Ogden Pioneer Days National Day of the American Cowboy – 2006.

Susie and Dwane Van Hooser 

Susie and Dwane Van Hooser moved to Utah in 1978 and immediately fell in love with the great state of Utah and the city of Ogden. Dwane worked for the research branch of the US Forest Service for 38 years, retiring as the manager of the Interior West Resource Inventory and Monitoring Program. Susie was an educator to hundreds of students for over 30 years and still loves seeing her second graders even though most of them have families of their own. 

One of many notable things that we should all look up to is their dedication to Ogden and their passion for serving their community. They both joined the Ogden Pioneer Day’s committee in 1979 and have served in a multitude of roles over the years. 

Dwane was the chairman of the Ogden Pioneer Days Parade Committee from 1984-1992, Vice Chairman of the Ogden Pioneer Days Committee in 1993 and Chairman from 1994-1995. 

Susie founded the Utah Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Union Station featuring art and memorabilia exemplifying the western way of life. Susie also founded this very Hall of Fame in which she and Dwane are being nominated. She continues to serve as an Ogden Pioneer Days committee member today. 

They have both served on the Miss Rodeo Ogden and Miss Rodeo Utah committees and have supported the Hospitality Cabin at the Ogden Pioneer Stadium. 

They were also honored to be the Grand Marshals of the Ogden Pioneer Days in 2014. 

In 2006, Susie was appointed to the Ogden City Council and was elected to the same seat in 2009. She served as the Council Vice Chair in 2010 and had significant involvement in Ogden’s demolition by neglect ordinance and other historic preservation initiatives. 

She has been a member or chairperson of many boards in Ogden including: Ogden City Landmarks Commission, Salvation Army Board, Egyptian Theater Foundation Board, Crossroads of the West Advisory Committee, Utah Heritage Foundation and Weber County Heritage Foundation. 

As the Vice President of the Egyptian Theater Foundation Board Susie led the restoration of the Egyptian Theater (one of Ogden’s treasures) and as a past President of the Weber County Heritage Foundation was instrumental in the restoration of the lime kiln in Ogden Canyon. 

In 1996 Dwane was asked to serve on the Governor’s Sesquicentennial Celebration Coordinating Council, which provided oversight to the activities commemorating the 1847 arrival of the Mormon Pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley. 

In 1991, Susie and Dwane received President George H.W. Bush’s “Point of Light” Award for their volunteer activities. 

The Van Hooser’s have been married for over 58 years and have three grown children (Randy, Kelly and Courtney) and many grandchildren living in the Ogden area.

2021

KEITH HALES COOMBS

Keith was a devout horseman and rancher who put his whole heart into all he did and helped ingrain western heritage into the lives of those around him. His passions included horses and helping others.  He was not only a working cowboy/rancher but was also a competitor in the rodeo arena, where he won numerous awards and buckles in calf roping, bareback bronc riding and bull riding. Keith also hazed steers in the steer wrestling.

He would help anyone but especially enjoyed helping young people. Keith built an arena behind his home available to adults and youth alike in Box Elder County—and he often provided the ropes and horses for anyone in need. He furnished roping stock and donated his time to train willing souls in roping and flagging techniques.

As a youth, Keith served on the committee seeking approval to hold the first High School rodeo in Utah and continued his involvement as an adult officer. He was a founding member of the Plymouth Roping Club, a member of the Box Elder Sheriff’s Posse, where he served in various positions including Posse Chief, and also served on the Fielding City Town Council.

Keith passed away in 2013 but his legacy lives on in the lives of those he influenced.

DESIREE “DES” COOPER-LARSEN

Des had a happy childhood and grew up riding horses. She was a Lehi High School Cheerleader and qualified for the National High School Rodeo Finals in barrel racing. Des danced her way on stage to become Miss Lehi and went on to later become Miss Rodeo Utah in 1979. She also won the coveted speech award at the Miss Rodeo America contest that same year.

Des earned her master’s and bachelor’s degree at Utah State University in Marketing/Education and became a Professor of Professional Sales at Weber State University, where she was twice presented the Utah Association of Marketing Educators Teacher of the Year. Des was also instrumental in starting the Alan E. Hall Center for Sales Excellence at WSU.

Des was the heart and soul of the Ogden Pioneer Days Celebration and worked endlessly to build a world-class PRCA Hall of Fame Rodeo. Due to her passionate efforts, along with the help of many others, the Ogden Pioneer Days rodeo has been honored as a top PRCA “Rodeo of the Year” for 13 years. Des was the one and only woman to chair the celebration in its 86-year history. She was also President of the Miss Rodeo Utah Executive Board, as well as a member of the Miss Rodeo America Foundation Board.

Des lost her battle to COVID-19-related complications in February of 2021. She was a driving force, could make anything happen and her unique abilities will be greatly missed.

BEVERLY “BEV” CROSS

Bev Cross was the backbone of the western world in Ogden and Weber County from the mid-1960s to 1980s—turning more young women into rodeo queens than any other person in the nation. She and her husband, Ken, ran C. W. (Cross Western) Wear. Though not born to the western world, she began working in the store when her two boys were small, and quickly became educated in the process of buying, selling and dressing those looking for western wear.

Over time, Bev’s reputation for dressing young women competing as rodeo queens spread throughout the western world. She was the “go-to” woman for young ladies wanting to wear the title of Rodeo Queen. In fact, she was referred to as the “Queen Mother.” Many state rodeo queens came to Ogden to gain her fashion knowledge and have her create their competition wardrobe.

Bev was always budget conscious and worked hard to achieve the best winning look for every customer. She even helped with hair, makeup and speeches. Bev still remembers all those she served and can tell you what they wore—especially those who became Miss Rodeo America. She nurtured, loved and brought out the best in the in all of them, and still enjoys friendships with many of the Queens.

A huge supporter of rodeo, she helped many a young cowboy and cowgirl get involved in the sport of rodeo—cheering them on wherever she could.

GERALD (JERRY) LYNN HURST

From rough stock contestant to bull fighter, to rodeo clown and more, Jerry has made indelible tracks in rodeo arenas at every level of competition—starting with his achievement as the National High School Association Champion Bull Rider in 1968. After earning awards in bareback and bull riding, he decided riding bulls was too easy and for the next 27 years entertained audiences as a professional bull fighter. Then, Jerry worked another seven years as a barrel man and rodeo clown.

While continuing his participation in rodeo, Jerry earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Agricultural Education. He moved to Grantsville to teach school and raise his family in that small town community. Not only the local Agricultural teacher, Jerry was also the local vet, crop expert, student counselor and show animal expert—and was also Dad, husband and local rodeo performer. He believed deeply that you should give back to your community and served as a Grantsville City Councilman, Assistant Mayor, Tooele County Commissioner, and chaired many committees on the local, state and national level.

TIM OYLER

Tim began his career as a rodeo clown at a young age, working at the Miniature Rodeo Company established by his dad, Vern Oyler. In addition to his clowning and bull fighting, he won the Bulldogging Championship in 1967. Even while the serving in the military, he was able to spend his weekend leave time working shows for the Louisiana Rodeo Association. After returning from the military, with the help of Pro Rodeo Clown, Chuck Henson, and Rodeo Producer Swanny Kerby, Tim earned his RCA Professional Rodeo Card, which led him into an incredible 34-year, “clowning and bull fighting” career. In 1977 he was chosen as the N.H.S.R.A. “Bullfighter of the Decade,” which Tim considered his greatest personal achievement.

During his college days, Tim competed on the Idaho University rodeo team—graduating in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education and a minor in Speech and Drama. In 1975 he received a master’s degree in Education Administration and thereafter taught speech and drama in the Jerome School District from 1973 – 1980.

Though his clowning career took a toll on his body with several broken bones, he never regretted his decision to be a bullfighter. He lived by the words, “Life is too short, so do what brings you the most joy. Then, you won’t have regrets later about missing the opportunity to do what you love.”

CHENAE SHINER VEST

Chenae was raised on the back of a horse, whether at a rodeo or moving cattle in the field–the cowboy way was a part of everyday life. She learned to love the rodeo arena, competing in barrel racing, poles and breakaway roping—and qualified for the National High School Rodeo Finals three times in the barrel racing event.

Along the way, she picked up rodeo queening and promoting the western lifestyle became a passion. She won Utah State High School Rodeo Queen in 2007 and went on to become the 2007-08 National High School Rodeo Association Queen.

After high school Chenae went to Utah State University, where she earned her business degree. She kept up with her rodeo queening goals, and in 2010 won the title of Miss Wilderness Circuit and Miss Rodeo Ogden. In 2012, as Ogden’s representative, she achieved a lifelong goal of winning the Miss Rodeo Utah title. Representing the Beehive State in Las Vegas that same year, she won the title of Miss Rodeo America 2013—a true honor for her.

After passing on her crowns, Chenae went on to marry her own cowboy, professional tie-down roper, Stetson Vest. They continue to travel the pro rodeo trail together, now joined by their little girl. When not on the road, they reside in Childress, Texas and work on the family ranch.

2019

VAL LEAVITT

Big, tall and tan, he excelled at being an announcer and was loved by the cowboys, the clowns and the crowd. His personality, mannerisms, true gentlemanly ways, and love for the west and all things rodeo were his way of life.

He grew up working with his father in rodeo production, and began his announcing career in 1956 with Vern Oyler’s “miniature rodeo” in Garland, and went on to announce The Little Buckaroo Rodeo throughout Idaho and Utah. For over 40 years he announced at all levels of rodeo in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and Nevada.

His wife, Nancy was by his side keeping track of the riders and ropers names, along with their stats, which allowed Val to keep talking, using his own quips, banter and knowledge to present an event like no other.

He was a monument to generations of youth as he felt rodeo was one of the few sports where the individual could compete on his own against the world.

His booming voice was a legend. He was master of the “mic” for rodeos, horse shows, chariot races, horse pulling contests, ball games, fashion shows, talent show, auctions and western style competitive games, who promoted the western lifestyle from his signature neck scarf to his humble cowboy ways.

RAYMOND MOSER

Ray was a man of honor and integrity who knew history played a major role in the development of rodeo, and it was his passion to keep the western spirit alive. He always dreamed of being a cowboy and began living that dream in 1952 when he started riding bareback horses and bulls at the Red Rock Ranch. He went to Shorty Thompson’s arena on a regular basis to hone his skills.

At one of the rodeos he attended one of the clowns didn’t show up and he was talked into taking his place. A passion was born. His career took off in the mid 1960’s, soon after he got his membership in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, when he became the first rodeo clown from Utah.

His many years with the PRCA took him throughout Utah, the western and central states and Canada. He worked with the Bar T Rodeo for many years, but was especially excited when he was able to work his hometown rodeo – Ogden Pioneer Days. He also worked college and high-school rodeos and was invited to clown at the National Finals.

He was famous for being “the man in the barrel.” He had many jokes and acts, two of his favorite were with his trick pony “Cappy,” and his dog “Toby.” Roy never hesitated to jump in front of a bull to keep the cowboys safe. He never missed an opportunity to help a young person get into the rodeo business, including his two sons and two grandsons who followed in his footsteps as contestants and clown/bullfighters.

Ray probably work at least 630 rodeos during his successful 25-30 year career. He was a proven leader, mentor and master of his craft, and was paid tribute to for having a major influence in many lives as well as the sport of rodeo.

GERALD YOUNG

Gerald spent his youth growing up on the YR family ranch in Oakley, where he enjoyed working with cattle and with the interaction with all the animals on the ranch. As he got older he tried his hand at bareback riding and steer riding. Deciding this activity was too hard on his body, he determined to provide others with horses to ride and went into business for himself, creating Young and Young Rodeo Company. He started small, picking up horses whenever possible, and constructing a make-shift arena out of snow fence with lighting provided by vehicles. As participation grew, so did his desire for a regular rodeo arena, and in 1940 local leaders decided to build an arena in the town park.

As the town grew, Young and Young also grew with over 40 rodeos contracted annually, his favorite being the weekly Lagoon rodeo

Realizing a need for a cowboy’s association, he was instrumental in forming and organizing the Rocky Mountain Rodeo Association, from which he received the RMCA Outstanding Service Award in 1961. He received several other awards over the years. A homegrown cowboy, plus his love of animals, combined with the desire to rodeo, equaled the best of the best, Young and Young Rodeo Company.

He not only served the local and national rodeo industry, he also served his local community and county as a County Commissioner, Chairman of the Oakley Independence Day rodeo, Grand Marshall for the Independence Day parade, recipient representing Summit County for the National Day of the American Cowboy, and has been showcased in a number of publications.

His wife and children worked beside him, and several children are still a large part of the daily management and operation of the ranch.

2018

STEVEN MONEY

Steven Money manages one of the top Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeos in the country. In 2016, he was instrumental in getting Spanish Fork Fiesta Days Rodeo into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame. In 2017, he received the John Justin Committee Person of the Year Award and was honored at the PRCA awards banquet and at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.

Steven started working for Spanish Fork City in 1991 and has been the Fairgrounds Manager and Rodeo Committee Chairman for 34 years. “Mr. Rodeo,” as he is affectionately called, has been the back bone of the Fiesta Days Rodeo which has been the core event of the city’s large Fiesta Days Celebration. Steven was very influential in bringing the city into the rodeo business by working with the Diamond Fork Riding Club, the previous producer of the rodeo. He was the founding member of the new city rodeo committee.

Steven’s passion and desire to produce the best rodeo possible is what led to the Fiesta Days Rodeo becoming a Silver Tour Rodeo in 2010. Due to his knowledge of rodeo production and all other aspects of rodeo, Steven was also asked by the PRCA to serve on various national committees.

Under his leadership, the Fiesta Days has promoted all types of horse shows, rodeos, cow cutting, ropings, barrel racing, and fairs. They have also received numerous PRCA Justin Best Footing Awards.

Steven was born in 1951, is a graduate of Spanish Fork High School and attended college at Utah Valley University. He has been employed by Pacific States Cast Iron Pipe for 23 years and by Spanish Fork City for over 25 years.

JOE AND CARRIE RUIZ

The Ruiz family has been an active part of the Utah horse community for many years. Joe is an accomplished horse trainer, bit and spur craftsman, judge and clinician. Joe and Carrie are working in all aspects of the Utah horse industry. As a horse trainer, Joe has specialized in Reining, Working Cow horse, and Barrel racing. Joe and Carrie have proven to be extremely effective coaches for many clients. In 2009 Joe was inducted into the Intermountain Reining Horse Association (IRHA) Hall of Fame. Joe and Carrie have been a great team with the never-ending help & support of their three sons: Brandon, Just in and Jared. Some of their accomplishments include:

  • World Champion — Mules Reining 1987
  • World Champion — American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) Reining 1994
  • Reserve World Champions Working Cow Horse and Freestyle Reining
  • World Qualifiers in AQHA, American Paint Horse Association, Appaloosa Horse Association, Reining,
  • Working Cow Horse, Ranch Riding, Barrels, Poles 2x 1987, 2x 1988, 1989, 1992, 3x 2012-2018
  • World Qualifiers AQHA, APHA, ApHA Amateur 1987, 1988, 2×1989, 1999

Joe was president of the IRHA from 1985 to 1991 and has been a National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Judge from 1988 to the present. Carrie has been a National Reining Horse Association judge from 1992 to the present and Intermountain Reining Horse Association Events Coordinator and Operation Manager 1985 to 1991.

Joe and Carrie have both served for several years on the Utah Quarter Horse Association Board of Directors. They are dedicated horsemen who have had a large impact on the equestrian world.

Joe Ruiz was born on Sept. 26, 1951 in Florence, Ariz. He grew up on an Arizona cattle ranch. At 16, he started breaking colts and training horses finding a passion that would last a life time. Joe competed in college rodeo for Central Arizona College in Casa Grande, Ariz., from1969-1971. Carrie Parker Ruiz was born June 26, 1956 in Salt Lake City. She was raised on the Lazy P Ranch. Carrie learned to ride and compete in 4-H, Open and Quarter Horse Shows. Joe and Carrie were married on Dec. 12, 1975.

GARY BLACKBURN

Gary Blackburn began life at a coal camp in Spring Canyon, Cabon County in 1928, coming from a long line of ranchers, cowboys and pioneers who settled Utah. He began cowboying at a young age, often staying with cousins and uncles helping herd cattle and sheep in Carbon and Emery Counties. Gary rodeoed, riding saddle bronc, roping calves, even participated in potato races and barrel racing.

In 1948, Gary married the love of his life, RaNae Swenson, and gave up riding the rough saddle broncs, but rodeoed for many years at community rodeos, roping calves and organizing events. During the early years of marriage, he worked in the coal mines and coke ovens in Carbon County, but in the spring of 1958 he moved his family to the Deseret Land and Livestock Ranch in Woodruff. He was hired as a cowboy and then became ranch manager in 1970.

At that time the Deseret Land and Livestock Ranch was one of the largest ranches in the entire United States. Two hundred thirty thousand acres in Rich County, plus 15,000 deeded acres in Skull Valley and 400,000 BLM acres. Some 4,000, head of cattle were on the ranch at this time as well as 50,000 sheep, which were run on the ranch, wintering in Skull Valley and at Pilot, Nev. After he became ranch manager, Gary designed a major expansion and improvement of cattle-handling yards resulting in a very satisfying profit.

In 1975. the Deseret Ranch was sold and by spring of 1976 he began working as manager for Skull Valley Ranch. The Skull Valley Ranch was 30,000 acres with 3,000 head of cattle and National Forest permits on the Stansbury Range. Gary retired from Skull Valley Company in 1993 to run his own cattle operation.

In 2003 Gary sold his cattle as his wife had become increasingly disabled with aging dementia, so he became her full-time caregiver and they lived at their home in Grantsville.

Gary’s leadership style also included compassion for others when they had hard times. He took out personal loans from the bank to help folks in need, opened his home for shelter and meals for folks down on their luck and needing a hand. Gary passed away Dec. 3, 2014 at the age of eighty-six.

MONTY HADLEY

Monty Joe Hadley was born on July 30, 1943. Monty started his race horse career at age 11 and was an amazing jockey. He traveled in various states and raced at all race tracks in Utah. He had many accolades and awards.

After attending a semester at Weber State College, serving a two-year LDS Mission, getting married, finding a job, and starting a family, Monty continued his cowboy activities. In 1965-1968, he mostly competed in the Rocky Mountain Rodeo Association, participating in steer wrestling, calf roping, and team roping. He joined the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) in 1968 in which he competed until he was in his 50s. He won many awards and when the PRCA started the circuit system (for contestants who worked full time), he competed in the Wilderness Circuit and placed second in the All-Around, steer wrestling, and calf roping. He received his gold card from the PRCA when he turned 50 because he was still an active member. He was also a professional judge for the PRCA, amateur, and high school rodeos.

Monty was also involved during these years in chariot racing. He won the championship in 1988 for Wasatch Slopes Racing Association.

Monty was on the Ogden Pioneer Days Rodeo Committee from 1997-1999 and helped the board make that rodeo very successful. Monty enjoyed his time training and breaking horses and teaching future cowboys and cowgirls in their rodeo events. He was also an experienced farrier and shoed many horses for over 30 years.

He was employed with the Weber School District Transportation Department for 28 years, where he was the director of Transportation; and for Massey Ferguson in Clearfield for 18 years. The Utah Highway Patrol awarded his department and his leadership every year for 28 years for safety and maintenance of the bus fleet. He retired in 2011after 28 years. He passed away Oct. 9, 2013.

BRENT KELLY

Brent Kelly was born on April 17, 1949, and currently resides in Heber City, Utah. Brent has been the Rocky Mountain Pro Rodeo Announcer of The Year five times. He has become known as the “Voice of the Utah High School State Rodeo finals,” as he has been that rodeo’s announcer for over 30 years and has also announced the National High School Rodeo Association (NHSRA) finals for over 20 years. Brent was honored in 2015 as one of the top announcers of the NHSRA.

He is a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Card Holder and a Rocky Mountain Professional Rodeo Association Card Holder. He also holds the honor of announcing at the famous Benny Binion’s Bucking Horse Sale every December at the National Finals Rodeo, and has been announcing the Evanston Rodeo Series every year since 1993.

Brent spends every weekend in the summer, from May to September, calling rodeo action, which has included the World Reining horse show in Fort Worth Texas as well as the Winter Series rodeo in Ogden. Brent is a previous owner-operator of the Utah Livestock Auction in Spanish Fork. He has served on the Mountain Valley Stampede PRCA rodeo committee for over 20 years and has been instrumental in that rodeo’s success. In addition to being one of the founders of the Heber Valley Horse sale, he is also on the Heber Valley Cowboy Poetry board and serves as one of the masters of ceremonies. He also serves on the water board for Midway City.

Brent has a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University. He has been a Seminary Teacher for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for over 30 years. He is married to Mary Kelly, who is the head of the Heber Valley Cowboy Poetry and Citizen of the Year for Wasatch County in 2015.

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