In 2013, Winston Bruce, right, returned to his old stomping grounds as the honourary parade marshal of the Stettler Steel Wheel Stampede. FILE PHOTO

Winston Bruce, a Stettler Rodeo legend passes

Earlier this month, Winston Bruce passed away at the age of 79.

Les Stulberg For the Stettler Independent

The rodeo world has been mourning one of its legends. Stettler-born Winston Bruce passed away on Monday, July 10. He was 79.

Four years ago, Bruce was named honourary parade marshal of the Stettler Steel Wheel Stampede parade.

I had the pleasure of interviewing the congenial cowboy prior to his visit to Stettler.

Bruce said he was honoured to be the parade marshal as he had always considered the Stettler area to be home.

Bruce grew up on a farm in the Gadsby-Donalda area, not far from the Battle River, where his grandparents had homesteaded in the early 1900s. He attended a one-room school named Willow Park.

The decorated cowboy won the 1961 World PRCA Championship and qualified for the National Finals Rodeo for 10 consecutive years, 1959-1968.

Bruce was inducted into the Pro-Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1989, becoming the first Canadian to receive that honour.

He was also inducted into the Canadian Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1995 and the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame in 1998.

The Stettler-native’s name was also synonymous with the Calgary Stampede. After retiring as a champion bronc rider, he had a 33-year career with the Calgary Stampede as arena director, rodeo manager and manager of the rodeo stock breeding program. During his stint as arena director he was always seen riding his Appaloosa horse.

Bruce’s roots run deep in the Stettler area. His father, Laurence Bruce, was a local stock contractor and bronc rider instrumental in organizing some of the early Stettler rodeos.

Following in his father’s footsteps Bruce said he entered his first rodeo at Stettler and in his words, “cut his eye-teeth on rodeo in Stettler.” He recalled riding many broncs in the Stettler arena.

Bruce related he got nostalgic whenever he visited Stettler.

“I get a warm feeling every time I drive past the Stettler grandstand — it’s the same one that was there when I competed,” he said.

During the interview Bruce said he still had family in the Stettler area, his cousins the Cassidys.

He also reflected on his long and productive career in the rodeo business, that he “didn’t count life in years” but rather “counted moments of life.”