Sad News tonight from our friends at Bronc Riding Nation (shared on their Facebook page) that legendary rodeo cowboy Winston Bruce passed away Monday, July 10th....
Winston Bruce ... one of the most beloved men in Bronc Riding Nation, left this world tonight.
It wasn't one of the thousands of rank bucking horses he made look easy over the course of his amazing career. Pneumonia claimed his life while the great rodeo he loved and put his very soul into, the Calgary Stampede lights up the Alberta night.
Winston was a guiding light to the BRN organization. He was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 1989; won the PRCA bronc riding world title in 1961, won the Canadian Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association title in 1957 and 1958; Cheyenne Frontier Days in 1959 and ten times qualified for the NFR.
He enriched and guided the Calgary Stampede program after he hung up his spurs and was always there for the horses, his vast circle of friends and the community.
SO LONG AND HAPPY TRAILS TO A RODEO LEGEND
On October 27, 1937 in Stettler, Alberta a rodeo legend was born. Growing up surrounded by cowboys, bucking horses and the rodeo lifestyle, a young Winston Bruce was inspired to follow his dreams, pursuing a career as a professional rodeo athlete and champion.
And what a champion he was. During his time as a Saddle Bronc rider, he won the Novice Bronc in 1954 and ’55, the Canadian Saddle Bronc championship in 1957 and ’58 and the World title in 1961.
Laurence Bruce and Winston Bruce, 1959
To his fans and followers he was a superstar who had a near-perfect sense of balance on a bucking horse and whose smooth ride left audiences in awe, to those who knew him personally there was much more to Winston Bruce.
“He was my hero, mentor and friend. I wanted to grow up and be him,” said Kynan Vine, manager, western events, Calgary Stampede. “I could go on for days about the admiration and respect I have for him, anyone who knew him knows what I mean.”
In 1968 he hung up his saddle as an athlete and stepped into a new role as rodeo manager and arena director at the Calgary Stampede, a job he loved until he retired in 2002.
During his time at the Stampede he helped shape the vision for the future and kick-started our world-class Born to Buck™ breeding program, and was a great leader and mentor to volunteers, employees and anyone he met.
Winston on Red Wing, 1966
“He was influential in every cowboy’s life and saw the world through the eyes of a champion,” said Heather Weatherly, member of the Stampede’s broadcast team and who is also the daughter-in-law of former competitor and fellow stock contractor Stan Weatherly.
“Stan and Winston grew up together and worked together for years. Since Stan’s passing, Winston was always right there if we needed anything and that’s just the kind of man he was. No matter what your goals were, he encouraged you to be the best you could be and he remembered absolutely everyone he met,” shared Weatherly.
Beyond the silver buckles and world titles that hung on the breast collars of his Appaloosa horses, Idaho and Boise, Winston was a man of kindness and a lover of all things rodeo.
“He was still putting on Saddle Bronc riding schools until this year and helping teach new cowboys the sport and how to be successful. He had great pride in where he came from and pride in his family,” said Weatherly.
Clar Manning, Doug Harkness shakes Winston Bruce’s hand at the Grandstand in 1959.
In 1989 he was inducted into the Professional Rodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs and was the first Canadian inductee. In 1995, he and his father Laurence, former rodeo producer and stock contractor were inducted into the Canadian Historical Rodeo Hall of Fame. He also served on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Board (PRCA) of Directors for four years and sat on the advisory committee. The PRCA named him Cowboy of the year in 2005.
“Winston was very influential in the rodeo community as a former competitor and world champion,” said Keith Merrington, stock contractor and consultant for the Calgary Stampede. “Everyone knows and admires him from Houston Texas all the way to Grand Prairie; he’s impacted the world of rodeo in a big way.”
In addition to his many accomplishments, he also loved to write.
“He wrote about how he imagined the current bucking horses would feel if time had not robbed him of his ability to be a saddle bronc rider forever,” said Weatherly.
Aside from being a major influencer in the rodeo world, he was also dad to Christie and Laurence and grandfather to Zoe, who was his world. He recently attended her graduation and she spent every moment she could with him.
“The world of rodeo has lost a huge legend, he will be greatly missed and remembered,” added Weatherly.
Winston passed away peacefully on Monday, July 10, 2017. He was 80 years old.
Winston Bruce: Oct. 27, 1937 – July 10, 2017
Winston Bruce, the 1961 PRCA world champion saddle bronc rider, is shown prior to competing at California Rodeo Salinas in 1967. Bruce passed away July 10 at the age of 79
OLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – ProRodeo Hall of Fame saddle bronc rider Winston Bruce passed away July 10. He was 79.
Bruce’s PRCA career was highlighted by him winning the 1961 world championship. He qualified for the National Finals Rodeo 10 consecutive times from 1959-68, and was the reserve world champion in 1959 and 1965.
Bruce was inducted in the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 1989, becoming the first Canadian competitor to receive that honor. He also was inducted in the Canadian Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1995, and the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame & Museum in 1998.
“The world of rodeo is one of the greatest lives,” Bruce said in a 1988 article in the ProRodeo Sports News. “Doing what you like to do makes you good at what you’re doing.”
The native of Stettler, Alberta, developed a winning style through hours of practice, even in the snow. He summed up his formula for success as nerve, ability, coordination, balance and try.
Bruce also was the 1957-58 Canadian saddle bronc riding champion, and he won the saddle bronc riding title at Calgary (Alberta) and Cheyenne (Wyo.) in 1959.
Bruce, in rodeo circles, was sometimes referred to as “a homemade bronc rider.” This was in respectful reference to the fact he developed and perfected a wondrous and winning bronc riding style, under the direction of his father, Laurence, in home practice arenas.
The son of a stock contractor and bronc rider, Bruce grew up around cowboys and rodeos. In May 1965, he put on his first Winston Bruce Rodeo College, a roughstock riding school. In 1969, Bruce made the move from competing to working in rodeo. He was named assistant arena director of the Calgary Stampede, and in 1970, he became arena director.
From 1980 through 2002, he served as division manager for the rodeo, supervising the production of the Calgary Stampede and the rodeo stock breeding program.
July 11, 2017 - The rodeo world lost an icon yesterday, in the passing of legend and Hall of Fame cowboy Winston Bruce.
Stettler, Alberta-born cowboy, Winston Bruce, son of former stock contractor and saddle bronc rider, Laurence Bruce, rose to the top of the rodeo world as he won the World Saddle Bronc Riding Championship in 1961. This win came on the heels of his Canadian titles (1957 and '58) and, prior to that, a pair of novice championships in 1954 and ’55.
After a brilliant career in the arena that also included wins at Calgary and Cheyenne, Winston made the transition to the Calgary Stampede, serving for many years as the Rodeo Manager and Arena Director. It was during his tenure that the Stampede’s rodeo stock program gained prominence throughout the rodeo world.
Winston Bruce was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame at Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 1989 (the first Canadian contestant to be inducted) and the Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1995.
The rodeo community offers condolences to Winston’s family and many friends.