Milestones

John Rockey Sr. 1952–2019

Wednesday, June 12th, 2019

John Rockey Sr., Palmdale, Calif., who showed his gelding Let Georgie Do It to the title of 2016 NCHA Amateur Horse of the Year, passed away on Thursday, June 6. An NCHA member since 1978, Rockey will be honored with a tribute on June 12, at the PCCHA Derby at the South Point Equestrian Center in Las Vegas, where he had been entered to ride.

Last year, Rockey won both the PCCHA Futurity Classic Amateur Unlimited and the Non-Pro Limited titles riding Dureyngo Kid, who he also showed as reserve champion of the 2018 NCHA Super Stakes Amateur and the 2018 NCHA Derby Amateur Unlimited.

Last month, Rockey showed his 4-year-old gelding Sweet Toothe to win the Breeders Invitational Amateur championship, and collected money in seven other divisions of the event on Sweet Toothe and Dureyngo Kid.

James F. “Jim” Holmes 1936 – 2019

Tuesday, May 28th, 2019

Longtime NCHA member and cutting horse breeder Jim Holmes, 82, Longmont, Colo., a past president and a Hall of Fame member of the Western States Cutting Horse Association, passed away on Thursday, May 23.

Jim Holmes’s purchase of the 8-year-old stallion Wyoming Doc, in 1981, would prove to have a lasting impact on the cutting horse industry through his Wyoming Doc daughter, Nurse Rey, the dam of cutting’s #2 all-time leading sire, Dual Rey.

Jim Holmes grew up in Madison, Wisconsin and moved to Longmont with his wife, Virginia, and their family in 1971, where Holmes developed multiple business enterprises, as well as his interest in Quarter Horses. It was in Longmont that his daughters Gail and Linda became interested in cutting horses. Linda showed Wyoming Doc to place third in the 1983 NCHA Non-Pro World Championship standings, while Gail focused on breeding and selling the horses. Even after they married and started their separate careers, Gail Holmes Allen and Linda Holmes stayed hooked with cutting horses and developed their own influential breeding programs, while maintaining the heritage of their father’s foundation.

Visitation on Thursday, May 30th from 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm, followed by Rosary Prayers at 6:00 pm
Howe Mortuary Chapel, 439 Coffman St, Longmont, CO 80501

Mass of Christian Burial on Friday, May 31st at 10:00 am
St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, 323 Collyer Street, followed by Burial at 11:00 am, Mountain View Cemetery, 620 11th Avenue.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to: The Steven Holmes Fund c/o Longmont Community Foundation 636 Coffman Street, Suite #203 Longmont, CO 80502.

Dan Simpson 1952 – 2019

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019

NCHA member Dan Simpson, Mineola, Tex., 67, passed away on May 20, 2019, following a long illness.

Simpson was an NCHA Open World Championship Top Ten rider with Jimmy Doc, in 1986, and with Smart N Slick, in 2001. He also rode 1986 NCHA $3,000 Novice World champion Shine Bit Of Luck, as well Little Peppy Tari and Little Lightnin Doc, NCHA World Top Ten Open Geldings, and Genuine War Chips and Cayenne San, both NCHA World $3,000 Novice Top Ten horses.

Simpson is survived by his wife Danielle.

Arlis Justice 1934 – 2019

Friday, May 17th, 2019
Arlis Justice, with his daughter, Hope. Sally Harrison photo.

Arlis Justice, 84, a longtime NCHA member and father of NCHA Non-Pro Hall of Fame member Hope Mitchell, as well as father-in-law of NCHA Hall of Fame Rider John Mitchell, passed away, following a brief illness, at his home in Camden, Arkansas.

A cattle broker, as well as owner and operator of Justice Farms, Inc., Bearden, Ark., Arlis was drawn to cutting competition, when he began hauling Hope to weekend youth events. “What I do is Saturday play,” said Justice in 2001. “It’s a relaxing deal. We’re involved in shipping a lot of cattle and I work most of the time, but try to get away once or twice a month. Learning to pick cows was the only thing about cutting that I got pretty quick. The rest of it I had problems with because I don’t have a lot of confidence showing in a crowd. But cutting’s been good for us.”

Arlis Justice’s survivors include his wife, Barbara Ann; son Buster B. and his wife Sonya; daughter Hope and her husband John Mitchell; daughter Bobbie Jo and her husband Richard Vaughn; daughter Cindy Stafford; and step-daughter Ginger Kitchens; as well as 13 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

Graveside services were held on Tuesday, May 14 with Rev. Joe Howard Williamson officiating. Memorials may be made to Horsemen for Christ, P.O. Box 9524, Wichita Falls, Tex., 76301.

Aaron Schwarzwalter 1928 – 2019

Saturday, February 9th, 2019

Aaron Schwarzwalter, 91, Solvang, Calif., an NCHA member since 1968, passed away on Sunday, February 3, 2019.

The NCHA non-pro earner of $35,145, Schwarzwalter last showed in 2017, when he was 89, at the Rancho Vistadores Camp Cutting. He also competed in limited age event finals, including the Northwest Ranch Festival, the Red Bluff Winter Roundup, and the Pacific Coast Challenge, and in 1999, won the Northwest Ranch Festival on Telesis Cash O Lena.

In 1984, Schwarzwalter established All American Trailers North, a prominent West Coast horse and livestock trailer dealership.

Services will be held on March 2, 2019 at 2:00 p.m. at Santa Ynez Valley Presbyterian Church, 1825 Alamo Pintado Road, Solvang. A reception will follow at the Santa Ynez Equestrian Center, Mesa Verde Road, Santa Ynez.

Utah Vardell – 1941-2018

Tuesday, September 25th, 2018

Utah Vardell, 77, of Texarkana, Ark., died Tuesday, September 25, 2018, in Texarkana, Tex. Born in Puxico, Mo., he received his Bachelor’s degree from Murray State University and worked for Missouri Pacific Railroad before beginning a career with John Deere Company. He went on to own Green Line Equipment Company in Texarkana with partner Ed Wright, and retired in 2011, after 40 years in business.

Vardell, a longtime member of NCHA and friend to area horsemen and cutters, served 35 years on the Board of Directors and Rodeo Committee for the Four States Fair Association and was also a licensed auctioneer with the honorary title of “Colonel.”

Among his cutting accomplishments, Vardell, an amateur competitor, counted his 2013 and 2016 NCHA Eastern Nationals finals rides, aboard Skylines Short Stop and Ausdun Shepard, respectively, as his best, and was proud of his mare Playgirlisalena’s win for him under his close friend and trainer Brett Davis, in the 2012 AQHA Congress Futurity Open. He also bred Real Plain Jane, by Real Doc, who later produced three NCHA money earners of $236,306, and an NRCHA earner of $40,781, and CA Las Vegas Lights, winner of the 2003 APHA Derby with Jon Burgess.

Vardell is survived by his wife, Jane; son Stan Vardell and wife, Lori; daughter Vickie Steward and husband, Brian; stepson Ryan McBride; one brother, Benny Vardell; two sisters, Linda Faries and Kim Lee and husband, Bob; seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

A Celebration of life for Utah Vardell will be held at 10:00 A.M. Friday, September 28, 2018, at the Four States Fair and Rodeo Arena with the Rev. Todd Hervey officiating. Burial will follow in Rock Springs Cemetery. The family will receive friends from 5-8:00 P.M. Thursday, September 27, 2018, at Texarkana Funeral Home, Arkansas. Pallbearers are Brett Davis, Bradey Davis, Austin Shepard, Michael Cornett, Jordan Vardell, Branum Vardell, Tim Wright, and Jack McCoy. Honorary pallbearers are Ed Wright, Lynn Smith, Evan Steward, Joshua Steward, and Zach McBride.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made to Shriners’ Hospital for Children, 4400 Clayton Ave., St. Louis, MO 63310.

Walter Hellyer 1923 – 2017

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

Walter Hellyer, Waterford, Ontario, an NCHA Hall of Fame Member, past president of the Canadian Quarter Horse Association, and influential breeder of cutting horses, passed away on May 3, at the age of 93.

Hellyer grew up on a farm in Ontario, where he developed a love for working horses. By the late 1950s, he had become active in American Quarter Horse (AQHA) events, and he joined the National Cutting Horse (NCHA) in 1963. During the same period, he met pioneer cutting horse trainers Buster Welch and Shorty Freeman, who both showed horses for him.

As Hellyer expanded his Quarter Horse broodmare band, he shipped many of them to Texas, under the care of Shorty Freeman and Terry Riddle, who also trained and showed many of their offspring. In 1973, Hellyer purchased half-interest in the 1970 NCHA Futurity champion Doc O’Lena from Freeman, who had shown the Doc Bar son, out of the famed cutting champion Poco Lena.

In 1978, Freeman and Hellyer syndicated Doc O’Lena for $1.2 million, each retaining 10 shares from the total 70 shares. It was the first major syndication of a cutting stallion and was to have a lasting impact on the sport of cutting.

Doc O’Lena’s influence as a sire and grandsire is legendary. His Hellyer-bred offspring include Lenas Jewel Bars, sire of earners of $4.7 million and Playboys Madera LTE $409,761, 1988 NCHA Non-Pro World Champion and dam of 1993 NCHA Futurity Open Champion Playboy McCrae.

Hellyer is survived by his wife of 71 years, Doreen, as well as their children Pam Hellyer, Brenda (and Murray) Wivell, Warren (and Diana) Hellyer, Victoria Hellyer (and Dave Pavey), Margaret Kotsch, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.