Utah Hall of Fame Award Honorees

Utah Cowboy and Western Heritage Hall of Fame • 2021 Honorees

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.

View Previous Years’ Honorees

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.