Fund-raiser set to help longtime rodeo man

Cathy Decker/Staff reporter
This photo of Ron Partlow was taken 20 years ago by a rodeo photographer. He is doing one of his favorite things, announcing a rodeo.

Friends of Ron Partlow are planning a fund-raiser on Saturday, Aug. 29 at the New Windsor Rodeo grounds starting at 3 p.m. Proceeds will go to Ron to help defray medical costs.

His stature has diminished, but, so far, there is no pain associated with Ron Partlow's diagnosis of liver cancer. That's a blessing, he admits. His steely blue eyes could belong to a younger man; they still have that sparkle.

He has been the voice of the New Windsor Rodeo for the past 41 years. This year he's taking it easy.

He has been battling liver cancer since October 2008. While his weight has been affected, he's only a little discouraged. "I've lost probably 20-25 pounds," he said.

Ron will still be present during the rodeo, he says. "I won't be doing all of it." This year the committee hired Tom Nealy out of Bloomington to be the rodeo announcer. "He comes from a rodeo family."

The hardest thing for him right now is his lack of stamina. "I have no strength. I can't do anything physical."

On Thursday, July 30, 2009, he headed for Iowa City for some more treatment.

"In October last year I felt something around my stomach," he said. "I got real weak." He said he was hospitalized and a tumor was discovered in his liver. At that time he was given 14 units of blood.

Just two weeks ago he said, "They went in and blocked the blood vessels that supply the tumor."

That was in preparation for implanting "seeds" on July 30.

His treatments have included chemotherapy and radiation. "I was taking chemo up until a month ago."

Rodeo career

Ron grew up just south of Milan and began his career with rodeos at age 12 in 1950. "My older brother Jerry had a Rodeo Company," he said.

Every summer Ron would take off with the rodeo to help out. "I needed to send a note once a week to my mother," he said.

His work involved taking care of the livestock, bulls, bucking horses and saddle horses.

"We rodeoed all over the midwest and east coast." He eventually learned a few tricks, including being a trick roper, trick rider, clown, bull fighter and he even perfected a whip act. "We saw a lot of country."

Ron's talent with a microphone has been honed for the past 50 years. "I started announcing when I was 20," he said. He even announced rodeos at Madison Square Gardens. He has announced at the International Finals Rodeo three times, which is always held in Oklahoma. "I really enjoy doing rodeo announcing. I hope I can continue it."

As part of his rodeo career he got to meet a lot of celebrities including Tom Mix, Hoppalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Gabby Hayes, Gene Autry, Arthur Godfrey, Rin Tin Tin and Boss Hogg. He even had time to visit with all of them but Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. "They were on a pretty tight schedule. Gabby Hayes is pretty much the same in person as on camera," he said.

Besides announcing for rodeos Ron has been known to help out area communities announcing parades or other special occasions. "I've also announced a lot of Class A Arabian horse shows," he said. Ron has even done a few radio commercials.

New Windsor horse show, fair and rodeo

There's a lot of nice people in the rodeo, Partlow says.

While living in the area he has lived in New Windsor, Viola and for the past 11 years on a three-acre spread in Sherrard, just north of Matherville. There he has two horses, Jake, a nine-year-old Appaloosa, and Jack, a five-year-old Quarter horse.

Besides doing rodeo work, he ran Lucille's Pie Shop in Milan for close to 30 years and had a flower shop in New Windsor for 20 year. He's also a family man, with three grown children.

The village of Windsor, known as New Windsor, comes together as a community during the New Windsor Horse Show, Fair and Rodeo, with the population exploding by thousands during the three day stint. This year's rodeo is Aug. 13, 14 and 15. It is the 70th annual event.

"It started out 70 years ago as a horse show," he said. He has served as chairman of the horse show for many years and is the organizer of the New Windsor Drill Team. Ron said he was at an international show one year in Chicago and around five or six young people came out and did a salute with the flag. He thought, "That's just something that we could do."

That's how the New Windsor Drill Team came about in 1972. There were 17 young people that first year. "The biggest group was in 1976 with 54. That was way too many," he said. The New Windsor Drill Team has through the years entertained in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Missouri.

Planning for each year's fair begins right after the fair ends and heats up with more meetings starting in July. "We meet once a month year round and starting the first Tuesday in July it's work nights at the fairgrounds."