Champion cowboy Collins remembered as ‘gentleman’

World-champion horseman Bill Collins has died. Collins, 89, who was from Stettler, died Dec. 31 of natural causes.

Stettler native Bill Collins

Stettler native Bill Collins

World-champion horseman Bill Collins has died.

Collins, 89, who was from Stettler, died Dec. 31 of natural causes.

Local residents remember him fondly.

“He was one of the nicest gentlemen I ever met,” said fellow horseman Jerry Sinclair. “He was a real gentleman and a very nice gentleman.

“He was the kind of guy who would run across the street if he had seen you,.”

In 1943, Collins started as an outrider in the chuckwagon business for Orville Strandquist.

In 1946, 1947, and 1949, Collins won the Calgary Stampede Rangeland Derby.

Collins started driving chuckwagons in 1948 and eventually drove the Johnnie Phelan outfit at the Calgary Stampede for a second place win. In 1950 he won the Hand Hills Stampede.

He was a four-time Canadian Tie Down Roping Champion (1951, 1952, 1956, 1957). In addition, he was the Canadian Wild Cow Milking Champion in 1954.

Collins started working with cutting horses in 1955 and went on to become an eight-time winner of Canadian Open Cutting Horse Championship (1964, 1967, 1973, 1974 1981, 1982, 1983, and 1985).

He dedicated his life to promoting rodeo and helped bring cutting to the Calgary Stampede and the Alberta Stakes Futurity Association at Spruce Meadows in Calgary.

His fame reached across the world and he was inducted into the Canadian Cutting Horse Hall of Fame in 1987, as well as the Canadian Rodeo Hall of Fame (1994), and the National Cutting Horse Hall of Fame in Texas (1995). He was also the first Canadian to be received into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame.

In 1990, he won the Calgary Stampede’s Pioneers of Rodeo Award and became a Member of the Order of Canada in 1996.

He judged many competitions and taught clinics worldwide for about 30 years.

Collins is survived by Pearl, his wife of 39 years, and his children Russell, who lives in Vancouver, and Philip who lives in Calgary with their families, as well as numerous other relatives.

A private family service is planned at a later date.