On Monday, October 19, 2020, after a long life well lived, Frank Beard rode into the sunset to meet his maker. Frank was born on January 23, 1928 to Wallace and Sarah (Woodworth) Beard on a horse buying trip to California. He is survived by sons Casey (Anne), Tim (Val) and Pat (Stephanie) and daughter Shannon (Don) Stewart, sisters Sarah and Helen, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and nieces and nephews. Preceding him death were his wife Charlot, son Kelly, his parents and sister Ruby.
Raised in Toppenish, Washington, he loved horses from his earliest days. Even as a youngster, Frank excelled at buying, trading and breaking horses. Frank attended school in Toppenish where he was a gifted athlete and skilled boxer. Frank’s first job was riding horses for early World Champion bronc rider Lee Caldwell, who encouraged Frank’s desire to be a rodeo competitor.
Following his passion, Frank competed in rodeos around the Pacific Northwest. He was an all-around talent in the saddle bronc, bareback and calf roping events, but enjoyed his greatest success as a bronc rider, winning several rodeos. To augment his rodeo winnings, Frank worked for noted stock contractor Johnny Van Belle at his ranch in Outlook, Washington. The job had benefits he hadn’t bargained for. When Van Belle’s daughter, Charlot, returned home on college semester break, the youngsters were smitten. After a whirlwind romance, they married on September 3, 1947. True to their rodeo roots, they honeymooned at the Moses Lake Rodeo, where Frank won the bronc riding.
With a young and growing family, Frank cut back on rodeo competition, transitioning into a top-notch pickup man. He continued to trade and train horses and was a highly skilled farrier. Frank was also an accomplished packer, helping lead tours around Mount Rainier and the Wallowa Mountains during the summer and acting as a hunting guide during the fall.
Frank shared his love of horses and extensive knowledge with anyone interested in learning. The Beard ranch was a community gathering place, filled with friends, family, and horses. Frank and Charlot were active in 4-H programs and their children’s school activities. Their home was always open to youngsters in need of a place to stay and a guiding hand.
In the 1970’s, rodeo’s siren song drew Frank back to the arena. Supported by family and loyal friends, he founded Beard Rodeos. Frank earned a reputation for his award-winning livestock and honesty in dealing with rodeo committees and contestants. Supported by top rodeo riders, Beard Rodeos joined the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association in 1987. Frank’s stock excelled at Northwest rodeos including Ellensburg, Pendleton, Lewiston, Sisters and Hermiston. At the National Finals in Las Vegas, his bucking stock won many awards. Frank was intensely committed to making every rodeo as good as possible and had an unswerving sense of fair play. He helped many cowboys get their start and was always there to help a contestant in need. Cowboys enjoyed his passion for the sport, good natured kidding and horseplay, stories, one-armed pushup contests and pocketknife trades. In recognition of his outstanding contributions to the sport, Frank was inducted into several rodeo halls of fame.
When failing health forced Frank off the rodeo road, he concentrated on amassing his prized collection of western memorabilia and Native American artifacts. He was always glad to show his collection to visitors. As the accumulated injuries of a hard, dangerous life and advancing years took their toll, Frank still found great joy reliving old stories and visiting with cowboy friends. He followed the sport until the very end.
If a man’s wealth is measured by good friends, good horses, a good name and a loving family, Frank Beard was a rich man.
A private family graveside service has been held and a celebration of life for Frank and Charot will be held when it is safe to do so. Memorial contributions in Frank’s honor are suggested to the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund, 101 Pro Rodeo Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80919 or online at www.justincowboycrisisfund.org
Johnston & Williams Funeral Home and Crematory of Ellensburg has been entrusted with caring for Frank’s family. Online condolences may be left at www.johnston-williams.com
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