July 2, 1917 — Aug. 14, 2014
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Cecil Jones of Garden Valley, Calif., passed away Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014, at Western Slope Health Center in Placerville, Calif. He was born in Menan, Idaho, the eldest of nine children. He knew he didn’t want to pick spuds for a living and began his rodeo career at the age of 17, making $1 per ride at small rodeos in Jefferson County. In 1937, he met “The Rodeo King of the West,” Harry Rowell. He began working for Rowell at his ranch in Dublin, Calif. Thus began a lifelong union between the two men.
In 1938, Cecil joined the Cowboy Turtles Association and holds card No. 299. His rodeo career was in full swing. He rode bareback, saddle broncs and his favorite — bulls. He attended the World’s Fair Rodeo on San Francisco’s Treasure Island in 1939. At the age of 22, he rode in the Madison Square Garden Rodeo in New York City. That same year he won the All Around in Phillipsburg, Kansas. He was chosen to join the American Rodeo Team and sailed off to compete at the Royal Easter Show in Sydney, Australia in 1940. He returned to the states with the All Around Championship Title and the Championship in Bull Riding.
In 1941, Jones entered the Reno Rodeo as a civilian and left as a G.I. As First Sergeant, he sometimes took the liberty of writing his own passes so he could compete in nearby rodeos. While stationed at Camp Swift in Austin, Texas, he met Fannie Ruth Albright, who was working at the Base Exchange. They were married in October 1943.
Cecil’s military tour included overseas duty in France, Germany and finally Japan in 1945, as part of the American Occupation. While in Japan, he helped organize a rodeo featuring cowboys from the American ranks. Over 55,000 Japanese residents, U.S. soldiers, and even POW’s packed Meiji Olympic Stadium for the All G.I. Rodeo.
After the war Cecil and Fan settled in Austin, Texas for a year. He was lured back to California by Mr. Rowell to run his ranch. He still found time to compete in rodeos on the west coast and added another All Around title in 1948 at the Bear Valley-Pt. Reyes Rodeo. In 1949 he retired from contesting, but continued to contribute to the Rodeo Cowboys Association, now the PRCA. He worked as a Rodeo Secretary, Rodeo Judge and as a Rodeo Coordinator.
One of the major rodeos Cecil worked was Madison Square Garden in the 1950s. He was honored to be chosen as the first National Finals Rodeo Secretary in 1959 in Dallas, Texas. He held the secretary title for the Grand National Rodeo at the Cow Palace in San Francisco and also served as their Rodeo Coordinator for almost 40 years. He also worked at the Reno Rodeo in various capacities for over 20 years. Also Cecil, along with Cotton Rosser, was instrumental in establishing the first “Organized Bull Fights” at the Cow Palace in 1971. From these fights, the present day “Wrangler Bull Fights” were developed.
Cecil was one of the original organizers of the California Six-Pac Rodeos. He served two terms on the Board of Directors for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association as a Committee Representative. He also served as President of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center’s Rodeo Historical Society Board. He was also instrumental in organizing and the promotion of the College Rodeo Finals at the Cow Palace.
He worked with Casey Tibbs to session and make the first Bucking Horse of the Year halter award. Cecil took over the task of making the RCA World Champion Buckles and helped design the first “BtH Linderman Award” buckle and the first NFR Trophy buckles for Oklahoma City’s National Finals Rodeo. It was his idea to have a Ben Johnson Memorial Award that would be presented annually at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. This is a very prestigious award, being voted on by a committee and awarded to someone who upholds and who dedicates their life to the enrichment and teachings of the western way of life.
Cecil was a volunteer for the Alameda Sheriff’s Mounted Posse for twenty years. He held the position of Captain for two years. The drill team competed through out the west, including the Pasadena Rose Bowl Parade. They also assisted the sheriff’s department in their Search and Rescue calls. He was also a member of the Sonoma County Trail Blazers. He was famous for waking up the camp with his generator-run blender making his gin fizzes. He rode in Cotton Rosser’s Twin City Slickers Cattle Drive to help kick off the Marysville Rodeo. He was invited to be a wrangler on the Reno Rodeo Cattle Drive that drove long horn cattle from the desert in Nevada through downtown Reno and into the rodeo grounds each June.
In the 1970s, Cecil was introduced to the Reno Rodeo’s Exceptional Rodeo for children. He volunteered with other cowboys to help make these children’s rodeo dreams come true. Then he became involved with the El Dorado County Ride and Shine Program. This helped children and adults through therapy on horseback. In 2005, he participated in the 56th Wagon Train that begins in Carson City, Nevada, and arrives 10 days later in Placerville.
Cecil held the position of President of the Rowell Ranch Rodeo in the Dublin area. He worked more than six decades to ensure this rodeo’s success. And just this past Aug. 7, the Rowell Ranch Rodeo was inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame. The rodeo will celebrate their 95th year in May 2015.
Some of the awards that Cecil has received are:
PRCA Promotion of Rodeo & Western Lifestyle Award Tufty Federer Memorial Western Way of Life Award Cow Palace Special Awards
International Order of DeMolay Hats Off Award
W.E.M.A. Pioneer Award for the Promotion of Western Life Style Justin Boot Co. Man of the Year and Standard of the West Awards Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow Award
State of California Seal of Senate Resolution
County of Alameda Board of Supervisors Resolution El Dorado County Board of Supervisors Certificate of
Inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, OK
Inducted into the Professional Rodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, CO
Inducted into the State of California Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame, Sacramento, CA
Inducted into the Castro Valley Sports Foundation Hall of Fame, Castro Valley, CA
Volunteer of the Year Award “Ride & Shine Adaptive Horseback Riding
PRCA Old Timer’s Cowboy Legacy Award, Las Vegas, NV
Cecil was preceded in death by his wife of 60 years, Fannie Ruth Jones. His surviving family members are his daughter, Terry Rivas and her husband, Walter, of Garden Valley, Calif.; his two grandsons, John Looney and his wife, Marisa, of Danville, Calif., and Jason Looney-Rivas and his wife, Allison, of Cameron Park, Calif.; and his five great-grandchildren, Kyle Looney of Fullerton, Katelyn Looney of San Diego, Ella Looney of Danville and Brendan Gabie-Rivas and Andrew Looney-Rivas of Cameron Park. He also has two surviving sisters, Shirley Poole of Menan and Estalene Andrus of Grant, Idaho; and many, many nieces and nephews in California, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Wyoming and Hawaii.
If you would like to make a donation in Cecil’s name, please donate to Justin Cowboy Crisis Foundation, c/o Cindy Schonholtz, Program Manager, 101 ProRodeo Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80919, or to All About Equine, 2201 Francisco Drive #140-174, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762. A memorial will be held to celebrate his life on Thursday, Aug. 28, at 1 p.m., at the Rowell Ranch Rodeo grounds, 9711 Dublin Canyon Road in Castro Valley, Calif. Bring some stories to share. Arrangements entrusted to Chapel of the Pines Funeral Home, Placerville.