Central Alberta rodeo legend dies at 81

Rodeo legend, independent politician and doting grandfather, Tom Butterfield wore many hats over his lifetime and will be remembered for being larger than life.

Gary Harbin and Frank Mickey pay tribute to legendary steer wrestler and cattleman Tom Butterfield at the celebration of his life Monday.

Rodeo legend, independent politician and doting grandfather, Tom Butterfield wore many hats over his lifetime and will be remembered for being larger than life.

Thomas Warren Butterfield, 81, died Sept. 16 after a lengthy illness. The eldest of pro rodeo’s Butterfield brothers, he was raised on a farm west of Ponoka.

Hundreds of Butterfield’s family, friends and associates attended a celebration of his life on Monday. Fittingly, the service was held in the grandstand of the Ponoka Stampede grounds, where he spent much of his time as a rodeo cowboy and later as a director of the Ponoka Stampede Association.

Son-in-law Greg Smith said Butterfield’s management of Ponoka Feedlot Ltd. Custom Feeders made bankers and accountants nervous because he took business partners at their word.

“Most of Tom’s business dealings were done with a handshake and this meant more to him than any legal document.”

Longtime friend Frank Mickey said that at the age of 16, Butterfield decided to enter boys steer riding at the Asker rodeo in 1944. During the 1950s and ’60s, he was one of the top steer wrestlers in Canada. He was inducted as a builder into the Canadian Professional Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1996.

From 1968 to 2000, Butterfield was a director with the Ponoka Stampede Association, serving as president in 1978-79. At the time of his death, he was a member of the rodeo committee.

Active politically at many levels, Butterfield was a Ponoka County councillor and a candidate for the Western Canada Concept (WCC) in the 1982 provincial election, which he lost to Halvar Jonson.

“When I think of Tom Butterfield, I think of things a cowboy stands for — toughness, honesty, integrity and a sense of fair play,” said veterinarian Gary Harbin.

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