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The Extraordinary Sharon Shoulders

Written by Gail Woerner

Sharon Shoulders passed away, Saturday, January 30th, 2021, at home with family. She was the wife and partner of Jim Shoulders, 16-time World Champion PRCA All-Around and roughstock rodeo competitor, stock-contractor/rodeo producer, and icon of rodeo. She should be called “Mrs. Rodeo” because she did it all – except compete.

“I never met a cowboy, until I met Jim Shoulders,” said Sharon. She was born in Bell, California in 1929. Her family moved to Oklahoma in 1941 where she met Jim Shoulders in high school. The year they graduated high school, 1947 in Tulsa, they were married.  Their honeymoon that fall was at a Madison Square Garden rodeo in New York City.  Sharon, only 17, was asked to ride a horse in the rodeo parade, and she had to borrow the proper rodeo clothes. But she never forgot the older rodeo wives she met there.  “They were so kind to me, she remembered. “I wanted to be just like them.”

Sharon always had a huge heart and a natural tendency to care for others. It started with their children; Jamie, born in 1948, Marvin Paul in 1951, Jana in 1956, and Marcie in 1961. They bought a ranch at Henryetta, Oklahoma, in 1951, and Sharon ran it, while Jim was away at rodeos, making the money needed to pay for it. She learned to saddle and ride a horse to check their cows, she took laundry to town to wash for years, she even took the children several miles to catch the school bus, in a less than an adequate vehicle. She even became the President of the Salorn Cattle Association, (French Salers and Texas Longhorn)  and had one of the first Salorn cattle in Oklahoma. They were was striving for a breed of cattle to produce leaner beef. Regardless of what she was doing she was happy and remembered it all with the fondest of memories.

In time she began helping in their community, church, rodeo and so much more. Jim began producing rodeos, and holding rodeo schools, so she learned to time and secretary, plus so much more. She and good friend, Donna McSpadden, plus other rodeo wives, began the Ladies Fashion Show and Luncheon during the National Finals when it was held in Oklahoma City, and donated the profit to the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund. This luncheon is still being held at the NFR today.

Sharon and Jim were committed to the development of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, where many of the Jim Shoulder’s memorabilia are housed today. In fact, they attended the ground-breaking of the building on a cold, blustery day in the early 1950s, when Jim turned over the first shovel of dirt on Persimmon Hill. She also spent many years on the Board of Directors of the Rodeo Historical Society, housed in the Hall, and became President in 2016-2017.

As a long-time Sunday School teacher and active member of the  First United Methodist Church Sharon held practically every position in the church and seldom missed attending. The family originated the local PRCA rodeo and it has been called the Jim Shoulders Living Legends Rodeo, in Henryetta for many years. The entire family never misses being in the bleachers during each performance.

Since 2010, the Professional Bull Riders started giving a Sharon Shoulders Award, recognizing the work, partnership and faith of one of the wives of a bull rider in the PBR.  Jim’s association with Wrangler, the clothing manufacturer, as a sports icon and representative, until his death, is the longest association any sportsman had with a continuing sponsor. Sharon has continued that family association with Wrangler since Jim’s death in 2007.

Sharon’s good friend Donna McSpadden shared her desire to form a group of rodeo women to assist rodeo people with problems and financial needs. H.A.N.D.S. (Help A Needy Diva Survive) was started in 2003 and Sharon became one of the first to join, along with June Ivory, Liz Kesler and Donna. The membership of 50 women continue to send cards, and assist financially if needed, to those in the rodeo world who lose a family member, have a serious injury or health issue, or other serious problems. Sharon has always been at the forefront of this important organization.

Sharon always had a smile for everyone she met, and gave so much of herself to others.  Her kindness has definitely been recognized and applauded by those that have been fortunate enough to know her.

She is survived by her brother, James Heindselman; her daughters, Jana and husband Robert Soza; Marcie and husband, Joel Roth; and son Marvin Paul and wife, Lori Shoulders; grandchildren;  Dana, Justin and wife, Kim, James, Rob, Patty, Ellie, Buzz, Grace, Derek, Ashton, Langley and Logan. She was preceded in death by husband Jim, and daughter Jamie.

A celebration of life is being postponed at this time due to the restrictions of gatherings during the Covid-19 pandemic. Burial was at the New Sonora Cemetery with immediate family only. A public memorial will be held when it is safe to gather at the First United Methodist Church in Henryetta, OK.

Contributions can be made on Sharon’s behalf to the First Methodist Church, 1212 Lake Road, Henryetta, OK 74437, or to the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund, 101 ProRodeo Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80919.

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