William A. “Bill” Stearns crossed the Great Divide from his home range in Northeastern Wyoming on Passover, March 26th 2013 – just two weeks short of his 73rd birthday.
Following the tradition of his parents Billy and Evelyn (Dailey) Stearns, the 3rd-generation Wyoming cowboy grew up on a horse, making pony tracks over a 75-100-mile circle where the Stearns family had holdings at the edge of the Black Hills near the Wyoming/South Dakota border.
Working as an outside cowboy across more than six decades in the livestock industry, Bill rode hundreds of horses thousands of miles in several states, earning a reputation as one of the best in handling cattle, horses and country.
He played polo in the US and Canada, trained polo ponies and trained race horses. In recent years he did a lot of day-work across Wyoming’s Thunder Basin Grasslands.
Bill was South Dakota State Champion All Around Cowboy, Saddle Bronc Rider, and Bulldogger in 1958, and competed at the National High School Rodeo in Sulphur, Louisiana; later doing some college rodeoing from SDSU in Brookings and Sheridan Junior College in WY.
A 60’s bronc riding champion in the Northwest Ranch Cowboys Association, Bill rode PRCA on a permit, won the Kansas State Rodeo Association Bronc Riding Finals in 1983 and competed in the NARC Finals in Texas.
At the Old Timer’s National Finals in Amarillo, Texas, in 1985 Bill won the Saddle Bronc Riding Average, repeating the feat in 1994. He was the 50+ NSPRA World Champion Bronc Rider in 1995 and the Canadian Senior Pro Rodeo Association 50+ Bronc Riding Champion that same year; repeating the Canadian championship in 1996 as well as Runner-Up to the NSPRA World Champion Bronc Rider that year.
Bill’s true passion was helping young men acquire prowess in saddle bronc riding, and he was always willing to teach, with the help of his souped-up bucking machine. A memorial in his name will provide Rodeo School Scholarships to deserving Wyoming and South Dakota High School Rodeo participants. Other memorial options are to New Life Fellowship in Newcastle, or your own favorite charity.
Bill’s wife Rhonda, daughter and son-in-law Shelly Stearns and Brian Anderson, son and daughter-in-law Cody and Rachel Stearns, grandchildren Mackenzie, Andrew, Liam and Ava Stearns, brother Joe (Kate) Stearns and sister Carol Mc Inerney are left to mourn his passing. His Celebration of Life starts at noon Saturday, March 30th at Weston County Senior Services in Newcastle, Wyoming.
Worden Funeral Directors of Newcastle are in charge of arrangements.