ProRodeo Hall of Famer J.W. Stoker passes awaySara Tadken
J.W. Stoker, a member of the ProRodeo Hall of Fame, passed away April 21 in Weatherford, Texas. He was 94.
Stoker, who was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 2011, built a career spanning more than seven decades by being equally adept as a trick rider and trick roper.
In the spring of 1939, Stoker was hired by the Clyde S. Miller Rodeo Show as a young trick roper. Stoker was a member of several riding clubs where he learned to trick rope and ride from Pinky Barnes who traveled to Kansas City in the winter of 1938 to teach kids how to rope.
Stoker, who was known as the King of Cowboy Trick Riders and Ropers, took to it so well that he got his first job at 10 and show producer Clyde Miller sealed the deal by hiring both Stoker’s parents to travel with the show.
His skill as a trick rider got his picture on the Wheaties cereal box at age 12.
Stoker was named the PRCA Specialty Act of the Year in 1985 and 1986, earning the second of those awards when he was 59. He also appeared in several movies.
Stocker was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame on July 16, 2011.
“It tops everything I’ve done before; it’s the icing on the cake you could say,” said Stoker in the ProRodeo Sports News about his induction. ”
During his induction, Stoker spoke of the path he took to get into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.
“I was born in Colorado Springs, got into and out of the Army in Colorado Springs and now I’m in the Hall of Fame here, so I can say that I really like Colorado Springs,” Stocker said.
Upon his discharge from the service in 1953, he went on the road performing with black lights. This use of invisible ultraviolet lights was the first such use in professional rodeo.
Stoker worked the biggest rodeos – Cheyenne, Madison Square Garden, Calgary, Boston Garden, Denver, Fort Worth, Texas, and Salinas, Calif.
His talents of trick riding, black light rope spinning, and fancy horse catches also have been witnessed in many other countries including, Japan, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Korea, Finland, France, Australia, and Venezuela. He performed for the Queen of England, and he trick roped in President Harry Truman’s inaugural parade in 1948, and entertained President Ronald Reagan and future President George H.W. Bush at the 1984 Republican Convention in Dallas.
In 1973, Stoker spent seven months working for Casey Tibbs’ Wild West Show in Japan and later for the state of Nevada to publicize the state and encourage Japanese tourism.
In “Paint Horse Journal” in March 1980, J.W. said, “It’s a dying art”, “I predicted it in the 1940s and people told me I was crazy, but I’ve seen it come true.”
Stoker won the Will Rogers Centennial Trick Roping Contest in 1979 in Claremore, Okla., and performed at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He also was a featured guest on The Today Show and the Charlie Rose Show in 1990.
He also trick roped and rode in The Kansan in the late 1940s, and in 1956 performed stunts for the movie Bus Stop starring Marilyn Monroe. In 1980, he was a stunt double in the Clint Eastwood movie, Bronco Billy.
Stoker also performed as a stunt rider for Roy Rogers, and Rogers even rode one of J.W.’s favorite horses, Punkin, at the Houston Rodeo in 1969.
Stoker’s wardrobe includes more than 50 fancy fringed-rhinestone shirts, 25 pairs of handmade boots and 25 western hats. As recent as December 2003, Stoker entertained at The Great American Wild West show in Las Vegas and appeared in American Cowboy.
Also in his later years, Stoker made numerous appearances at the Rose Bowl Parade with Trish Lynn and the All American Cowgirl Chicks, a trick-riding team from Parker County that travels the rodeo circuit. Stoker was instrumental in coaching the team and developing them into trick riders.
He was inducted into the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in 1999, the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2007, and the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2015.
Stoker was recognized by the cities of Weatherford, Texas, and Overland Park, Kan., with mayoral proclamations of “J.W. Stoker Day” in both locations.
Stocker called Parker County home since 1969 and spent his final years working his beloved horses Romeo, Hollywood, and Blanco. While his trademark was white horses, Romeo, a paint stallion, was truly his favorite.
“I lived a good clean life, didn’t smoke or drink,” said Stoker in an Aug. 7 article in the University of North Texas Health Science Center of Fort Worth. “That’s why I am still able to keep busy taking care of the horses I love.”
Funeral services are scheduled for 10 a.m. (CT), April 30 at Parker County Cowboy Church, 5050 FM 5, Aledo, Texas, 76008.
Stoker will lie in state from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., April 29 at White’s Funeral Home, 130 Houston Ave., Weatherford, Texas.
Interment: Johnson County Memorial Gardens, 1200 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park, Kan., 66210 on May 4 at 11 a.m. (CT).
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations in Stoker’s memory be made to All American Cowgirl Chicks, 4101 William D. Tate, Suite 100, Grapevine, Texas, 76051 for the purpose of creating the J.W. Stoker Memorial Scholarship, to be used to assist young people in attending trick riding and roping camps.
Stoker is preceded in death by his parents, Frank and Wilma Stoker, and his sisters, Frankie Hill and Bessie Fugate, and nephew J.C. Hill.
He is survived by six nieces and nephews: Karen Krehbiel, Donald (Sondra) Hill; Ronnie (Gina) Hill; Wallace (Rhealene) Hill; Debbie (Brad) Miller; and Hunter (Geri) Fugate. Stoker also is survived by 15 great nieces and nephews, and 27 great-great nieces and nephews.