UW community mourns loss of rodeo coach

(Photo taken from UW Rodeo Team Facebook page) George Howard pictured with his wife Julie for their 35th wedding anniversary. Howard spent 20 years as a coach for the UW Rodeo Team.

Members of the UW rodeo team and nonmembers alike are taking in the loss of longtime club rodeo coach, George Howard.

Howard, 59, passed away Sunday, Nov. 26 at the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper after suffering from a gunshot wound Friday, Nov. 24. The incident took place southwest of Douglas Converse County Undersheriff Nathan Hughes said. The nature of the incident is still largely unknown and still under investigation, though several reports have indicated that it may have been a hunting accident.

Coach Howard spent 20 years as coach of the UW club rodeo team. Throughout his two decades of coaching, the rodeo team experienced its fair share of success.

In 2007 and 2009, the women’s team won the College National Finals Rodeo and in 2003, the men’s team took second. UW rodeo’s most recent success came last season when the women were the reserve champs at the CNFR.

Along with his team success, Howard coached more than a few successful individual athletes.

More importantly, Howard was known for his impact on students’ lives outside of the rodeo arena. Howard emphasized the importance of education amongst his student-athletes.

Assistant rodeo coach Lydia Coe discusses Howard’s attention to his students’ academic success.

“He had a special opportunity to bring kids in who wanted to get a degree and I know he really emphasized the academic side of it,” Coe said “He really pushed for kids to graduate and get their degree so they could go on and not just only focus on the rodeo, but also to push them to be successful in life.”

Howard’s students greatly appreciated their coach commitment to their success outside of the rodeo.

Casey Rae Reimler, a senior and 16-year rodeo veteran of Rozet, Wyoming, admired the lengths at which he would go for his students.

“George, he was kind of like a bit of a dad to all of us,” Reimler said “He may say what you didn’t want to hear, but it was what you needed to hear and he had a great heart. He’d go to the ends of the Earth for any one of us.”

Another rodeo senior, Casey Sellers of Buffalo, Wyoming, shared one of his favorite memories of Coach Howard.

“He stopped one time in practice and said, ‘You know, it’s just one of my greatest honors to be able to just help you guys even if it’s just a little bit,’” Sellers said.

Outside of his coaching position, Coe said Howard was a great family man.

“Both his daughters live in Douglas and he was always going to visit them,” Coe said. “I know both his grandkids adored him, and that kind of speaks for who he was outside the rodeo arena.”

The spring 2018 season is quickly approaching with the first event on March 9 in Cheyenne. The team hopes to keep Howard in their memory going into the spring season.

“We’re just going to try to go on and rodeo with him in mind,” Reimler said. “He would want us to try to move forward and do the best we can.”

A public memorial service will be held on Saturday, Dec. 2 at 1:00 p.m. at the Cliff and Martha Livestock Teaching Arena just outside of Laramie.

For those who plan on attending, the family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the George Howard Memorial Scholarship Fund at Security First Bank here in Laramie.

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