First Stampede Queen 'Patsy' Henderson Rodgers took lifelong role to heart
She leaves behind a lasting legacy, says chair of alumni committee
Patricia "Patsy" Henderson Rodgers, the Calgary Stampede's first Rodeo Queen in 1946, passed away last month at the age of 95, leaving behind a lasting legacy for the Stampede Queens who came behind.
Amy Smith, Calgary Stampede Queen in 2004 and the chair of the alumni committee for Calgary Stampede Queens, says Rodgers earned her legacy.
"She was the epitome of what you would think was a Stampede Queen. She had so much grace and poise, and was a very kind human and always smiling," Smith said.
"I can't recall a moment when I was with Patsy or in the vicinity of Patsy without her [having] a grin. She was so welcoming and approachable, and that's why I think everyone knew who Patsy was, or wanted to know her."
Smith said many of the former alumni members would go out of their way for a chance to visit with Patsy.
"I know any opportunity some of our alumni members had to go visit Patsy, they would. And they just have such fond memories of listening to Patsy's stories, as she was always promoting, you know, the Calgary Stampede and the community," Smith said.
"So that's just knowing that she would share with the following generations, just her stories. And her travels and what it meant to be the Stampede Queen is pretty special."
Rodgers grew up in a ranching family and often accompanied her father to the Stampede.
Her family was deeply rooted in the rodeo, Smith said, and Rodgers accompanied her father many times and happened to catch the eye of Stampede administration.
"[They were] looking to help promote Calgary's rodeo specifically, and at that time they asked her if she would represent the Calgary Stampede," Smith said.
That's when Rodgers' travels took off, and she visited noteworthy places like Boston and New York.
"At that time, she was the only Canadian representative there amongst some other rodeo queens," Smith said. "And so they also gave her the title of Miss Rodeo Canada."
Smith said Rodgers took her role seriously and was known for staying involved in Stampede charity events.
"She always came to our Giddy Up events. We have a series of events and she would volunteer at those, where we would welcome kids to the park and really bring Stampede spirit into their lives," Smith said. "So, of course, everyone fondly remembers Patsy contributing to those events."
"With the alumni as a sisterhood, she would participate in our anniversary celebrations. One that stands out the most is when Patsy was honoured as the Stampede parade marshal in 2008," Smith said.
At the age of 82, Rodgers kicked off the Stampede as parade marshal for the 96th Calgary Stampede. That year, more than 300,000 people lined the streets of Calgary to watch.
Smith said Rodgers didn't just settle for riding in the parade.
"You might have seen a picture of Patsy on stage, but she was welcome to be a part of the grandstand show each night that year in 2008," she said.
"And she was there looking incredible every day and every night on stage. And she led the parade that year. And the rest of the alumni got to be honorary parade marshals along with Patsy that year. So that memory stands out."
Smith also recalled Rodgers attending the 100th anniversary in 2012.
At a gathering at Heritage Park, alumni came dressed as if they were from 1912, complete with culotte pants.
"Then we would wear scarves and our vintage cowboy hats. And Patsy came to that gathering," she said.
"And so to remember Patsy at these momentous occasions was really special and to see her meet all the [generations] in the ladies that followed in her footsteps."
Smith said the alumni will mourn the loss of their icon.
"Next year is our 75th anniversary of having our first Stampede Queen, so we were wishing she would make it to that," Smith said.
Despite that, Smith is confident that Rodgers' legacy will carry on.
"I hope that they remember her as paving the way for all of the Stampede royalty that followed in her footsteps," she said. "I'd like to have people remember her as a pioneer and a trailblazer and a woman of ultimate class."
with files from Hannah Kost