OMAK — Two longtime Omak Stampede volunteers and a world champion cowboy who called Omak his “rodeo home” will be honored during this year’s rodeo with empty saddle tributes.
Bunny DeTro, Sandy Baker and Deb Copenhaver will be remembered during this year’s rodeo, which runs Aug. 8-11.
DeTro, Baker and Copenhaver all were members of the Omak Stampede Hall of Fame. DeTro was inducted in 1994, Baker and her husband, Mike, in 2015 and Copenhaver in 1978.
DeTro, 94, died Dec. 21, 2018, in Spokane.
She was born in Canada and served in the women’s division of the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II. She and her late husband, Russel DeTro, also a Canadian Air Force veteran, moved to Riverside in 1946 and ran H. DeTro and Son, DeTro’s Country Mercantile and DeTro’s Western Store for more than 40 years.
They had three children, Virginia (Ginger), James and Scott.
After their daughter became Miss Omak Stampede in 1964, the couple served as chaperones on many occasions. She stayed involved in Stampede and became the first female member of the organization’s board of director. She also was the first female Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association gold card holder.
Her long-held dream was to build a museum for Stampede. In 2017, the Stampede Museum Association museum, built by volunteer efforts, was dedicated in her honor.
She also co-edited a book produced by The Chronicle, “70 Years of the Omak Stampede.”
DeTro loved to travel, and was involved with her church, the Omak Visitor Information Center and the Okanogan County Art Club for many years.
Baker, 74, died June 29 in Omak.
She was born in Oliver, B.C., and moved to Omak in 1965. She loved horses, arts and crafts, reading and fishing, and was active in the Ghost Rivers horse club. She and her husband, Mike Baker, met in the Ghost Riders and married in 1980.
They were involved in Stampede for many years, first as carriers of the American and Canadian flags, and later as parking directors and grand parade organizers.
She worked for Omak Wood Products and later earned her associate degree in business. She worked as assistant manager of Omak Burger King until her retirement.
Copenhaver, two-time world champion saddle bronc rider and many-time Omak Stampede competitor, died Feb. 6 at his home in Creston. He was 94.
Copenhaver called Omak his “rodeo home.” He was in the Omak Stampede, ProRodeo and Ellensburg Rodeo halls of fame.
“He’s been a true supporter of Stampede and rodeo life in general,” said Sarah Grooms, Stampede office manager. “He never wavered in his support for rodeo.”
Family and love of the Lord were important to him.
During dedication of the Stampede Museum Association’ museum in August 2017, Copenhaver reminisced about the early days of rodeo and the people involved.
He joked about the early days, in the 1930s and 1940s: “Day money here, in the beginning, wasn’t that much. You had to be proud of your sport.”
Among items displayed at the museum is Copenhaver’s 1947 Omak Stampede all-around championship saddle, which sits on a frame he built especially for the museum and the saddle from wood salvaged from the old arena, which was razed when the new arena was built in 2009.
Copenhaver won the saddle bronc world championship in 1955 and 1956. He also won titles in many rodeos, from Calgary, Alberta, to Madison Square Garden in New York City, and from Pendleton, Ore., to Salinas, Calif., Denver, Colo., and Fort Worth, Texas.
The Wilbur native worked on ranches during the Depression and then caught and rode wild horses near the Colville Indian Reservation. He hit the rodeo trail, competing first in Keller in 1939.
Copenhaver enlisted in the Seabees at age 17 during World War II.
By 1948, he was back on the rodeo trail full time and by the early 1950s, was winning consistently. En route to his 1955 saddle bronc world championship, he traveled more than 90,000 from coast to coast and into Canada, according to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
Copenhaver was known as a “thinking” rider, according to a story about him on Wrangler Network. He started the style of the “dehorned” saddle, now required in saddle bronc riding competition.
The dehorned saddle came about partly by accident. After a bronc mashed the horn when it ran into the unsaddling chute, Copenhaver whittled off the rest of the horn and a new style was born, said Wrangler Network.
His last ride came in 1974 in Pendleton, Ore.
Copenhaver served on the PRCA board of directors from 1986 to 1989.
After retiring from competition, he bred and raised quarter horses near Creston and operated Deb’s Cafe for many years in town. The restaurant, now closed, was known for its steak nights and country bands Copenhaver brought in to play on Saturday nights.
Copenhaver also taught at a rodeo school in Idaho and preached the gospel.
He and his late wife, Cheryl, had five children, sons Jeff, Matt and Guy, and daughters Deborah and Kelly. Jeff was the 1975 world champion calf roper; Deborah was a former Miss Rodeo Washington.