Kenton (Ken) James McPheron died peacefully with his daughter by his side Tuesday morning July 20, 2021.
Ken was born February 10, 1939, in Greeley, CO to Lewis and Charlotte Ann McPheron. He spent his childhood with his 5 siblings living a rural lifestyle on a small family ranch. Ken’s Father was a Cattle Buyer which led to Ken spending many days working in the Denver Stockyards. The family later moved to Colorado Springs, CO where he began participating in rodeo as a teenager. He graduated from Colorado Springs High School in 1957 and became a rodeo athlete at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO.
He married his High School Sweetheart, Lana Wright, on February 27, 1960. Shortly after his marriage, his college career was cut short by the draft. He entered the Army and served in Vietnam as a Sharpshooter and completed his service at Ft. Riley Kansas. Upon discharge from service, he had two daughters, Kimm and Rayne. During this time Ken was pursuing his rodeo career and managed The Broadmoor Hotel and Resort stables and later The Penrose Equestrian Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
His next move was to the vast open spaces of Jackson, Wyoming where he worked, and made some of his most lasting friendships. The friendships and the family time he was able to include in his work there, always kept The White Grass and Red Rock guest ranches close to his heart as well as providing the backdrop for some of this best storytelling. During this time, he met The Marlboro man, Darrell Winfield. This meeting would eventually lead to him being recruited by the Leo Burnett Ad agency as a wrangler for the Marlboro brand and traveling with them on photo shoots. During the late ’70s, his horsemanship skills led him to manage The Garrison Ranch in Thousand Oaks, CA working with celebrities like Dean Martin, Lee Meriwether, Mel Tillis, and Jonathan Winters. As the manager of this facility, he was instrumental in importing the first Andalusian horses into the country and running the breeding program for this unique breed.
1987 held one of his proudest accomplishments. He purchased a gelding that had a deformed nose at birth that no one else wanted. He sent the horse named Guthrie Bert to Danny Mendez and together they won the Dan Menconi Memorial Perpetual World Championship Trophy including six buckles at the Snaffle Bit Futurity.
While on a Marlboro photoshoot location in Baker City, OR he met Shirley Pierce. They married on December 6, 1992, in Las Vegas, NV.
Ken’s marriage to Shirley blended two families and gave him three additional grown children, Lisa, Wayne, and Shane. In Baker his work as a contractor included the renovation of the Historic Geiser Grand Hotel. In 1994 he took his lifetime of experiences and went to work convincing his new friends and neighbors that Baker City needed a Bull Riding. The answer from most he approached was “It’s been tried, and it can’t be done”. The phrase “They said it couldn’t be done” is in their home on a framed picture of the event’s first winner. It was presented to him by his fellow volunteer Elks after the event became a successful reality. The Saddle Bronc riding was added, and the two-day rough stock event continues to this day. This accomplishment lead both he and the love of his life Shirley to be awarded Baker County Legacy Man and Woman of the Year. The rodeo became his legacy in his final home and a way to successfully get his extended family to make the pilgrimage to visit him and stay connected with one another each year.
He will be remembered as a Cowboy, a BIG personality, a committed Husband to Shirley, a bigger than life Father figure, a lesson giving Grandfather and Patriarch to the extended family. He was very loved and will be greatly missed.
He was preceded in death by His Parents, Lewis and Charlotte McPheron, His Siblings, Margaret Condello, Maxine Roberts, Betty Buckridge, JR McPheron, Jane Caldwell, and Stepson Wayne Pierce.
He is survived by: his Wife, Shirley McPheron, daughters, Kimm Wilcoxson (Brian), Rayne Christen, Lisa Xeros-VandenBos (Todd), Son, Shane Pierce (Tammy), grandchildren, Alex and Nick Xeros, Aspen and Aimee Christen, Marley, and Hollis Robb, Kailyse Fuss, Sydnee Pierce as well as numerous nieces and nephews.
At his request, an informal Memorial Gathering will take place at his home on 990 Park Street in Baker City on Saturday, July 24th, 2021 at 2:00 PM. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you give to a local, Baker County charitable organization in his memory.
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