Ted Ashworth, the 1958 world champion team roper and a six-time participant in the National Finals Rodeo, died Jan. 21 after a lengthy illness, at Community Hospice in Hughson, Calif. He was 82.
Known for his artful roping style, Ashworth was one of the most consistent heelers of his era, who won titles at every major rodeo in the West, including the National Western Stock Show in Denver, California Rodeo Salinas, Reno (Nev.) Rodeo and the Red Bluff (Calif.) Roundup.
He ended ProRodeo Hall of Fame inductee Dale Smith’s two-year run of world championships in 1958, winning the gold buckle by $13.
The next year, Ashworth took part in the inaugural National Finals Rodeo in Dallas, paired with Art Arnold. Ashworth would appear in the NFR five more times (1960, 1962-65), once more with Arnold and twice each with Smith and Bill Hamilton.
“Ted was the epitome of the perfect heeler and a perfect gentleman,” said five-time World Champion Team Roper Leo Camarillo. “I feel lucky that at an early stage in my rodeo career, I was able to witness a true cowboy who knew how to handle a rope.”
Ashworth was born in a tent in Yosemite Valley National Park, where his father, George, was employed, and grew up working cattle on his grandfather’s ranch in Mariposa County, Calif.
Unlike many ropers who perfected their skills in a practice arena or at jackpots, Ashworth learned while on cattle drives, moving herds from the foothills to the high country. Riding in the drag position, he would practice heel catches on the tail-end steers all day.
Ashworth competed in his first rodeo at age 12 in Mariposa, Calif., in 1938, and competed locally until entering service in the U.S. Navy. He married Jewell Wallis of Merced, Calif., upon his return and found work in construction with the Operating Engineers Local No. 3 while living in the Modesto, Calif., area.
He joined the Rodeo Cowboys Association in 1949, dividing his time between rodeo and construction throughout his career.
Ashworth is survived by daughter, Michaelene (Carl) Poston; son, Pat (Barbara) Ashworth; daughter, Teddi (Bob) Lowry; grandchildren, Lisa Suchon, Joshua Suchon, Grant Boring, Cameron (Heather) Boring, Justin (Jennifer) Ashworth, Bret Ashworth and Colton Ashworth; and great grandchildren, Kasey Suchon and Eden Boring.
In lieu of flowers, remembrances can be made to the Oakdale Cowboy Museum, 355 East F Street in Oakdale, Calif., 95361 or to Community Hospice 2201 Euclid, Hughson, Calif., 95326.