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IGRA Hall of Fame
Jonette (Jonny) Van Orman
First posted Nov 24, 2019
Last update Jan-20-2020

Jonette (Jonny) Van Orman

November 1, 1954 - September 18, 2008

IGRA# 1008

First attended a gay rodeo in 1983
Involved in gay rodeo through 2000

Inducted 2019

Jonette Mapuanna Van Orman was born November 1, 1954 in Honolulu, Hawaii to John and Alice Van Orman. The family moved to Colorado in 1958 when her father was transferred by the Navy. She was fondly known as Jonny to her friends, and Mapu to her family. She was the oldest of three children. Jonny grew up in Lakewood, Colorado where she attended the schools in Jefferson County. She had a great love for animals, sports, and the Girl Scouts. She played fast pitch softball, basketball and ran track. In the Girl Scouts, she went through all of the levels, and at the end, one of her biggest joys was being a camp counselor every year at the Girl Scout camps.

We are not sure exactly when Jonny became involved with rodeo, but by 1983 she was a member of the Colorado Gay Rodeo Association's (CGRA) Public Relations/ Fundraising Committee. In 1984, and again in 1986, Jonny was elected to the CGRA Board of Directors as the Chair of that committee.

In the summer of 1983, Jonny was a member of the cast for the "Gotta Get To Reno Show," which was a fundraiser to help rodeo contestants get to the August, 1983 National Reno Gay Rodeo (Reno Rodeo). In addition to the fundraiser for all Colorado contestants, Jonny received financial help from four individuals and Studio 31 in Denver. For the CGRA Newsletter she wrote: "I would like to extend my deepest thanks to those individuals who helped me to accomplish a dream come true. I was able to attend and participate in the National Reno Gay Rodeo all because of the kindness of these people." The August, 1983 CGRA Newsletter also published the rodeo results from that rodeo. Jonny's Wild Cow Milking Team placed 2nd for the weekend, and Jonny tied for 3rd in the Bull Riding competition. She was the only woman competing in Bull Riding, which had men and women competing together. She would have won the Women's Bull Riding buckle if it was a Sanctioned International Gay Rodeo!!

In 1983, Jonny was also a member of CGRA's Mounted Equestrian Drill Team, which performed at the 1983 Reno Rodeo. In October, the Team was also invited to perform at an AIDS Benefit Pro-Rodeo at Madison Square Garden in New York City, but ultimately they were not able to get permission from the show's producers. In 1984 the team rode at CGRA's 2nd Rocky Mountain Regional Rodeo in Denver, and the first Texas Gay Rodeo in Houston. In addition, Jonny was also a member of the Denver Country Cloggers.

After her successful bull ride at the 1983 Reno Rodeo, Jonny continued to compete in the event for several more years, including the first IGRA Finals at Hayward, California in 1987. In 1987 she received the IGRA Trustee's Award. This award is to recognize those contestants of IGRA who have exhibited excellence in the standards exemplified in the Code of Ethics and Sportsmanship. After the 1987 IGRA Finals Rodeo Jonny decided to drop Bull Riding, but she continued with Wild Cow Riding, Chute Dogging, and all three Horse Speed Events through the 1988 rodeo season.

In October, 1986, Jonny won the title of MS. CGRA for the 1987 rodeo year, and the following year Jonny placed as MS. IGRA 1988 2nd Runner-Up.

Prior to the 1987 IGRA Annual Convention the only Certified Rodeo Officials were the Rodeo Judges who had been certified in 1986. At the 1987 Convention, requirements for most of the other Certified Rodeo Officials were established, and individuals with prior experience were Grand-fathered into positions. Jonny was Grand-fathered in as a Chute Coordinator. In 1993 Jonny was the Chair of the Chute Coordinator Committee. She frequently worked the rodeos as a Chute Coordinator or on the Chute Crew from 1987 through 1998. In 1994 she also became certified as a Rodeo Judge, and continued her certification through 2000. In 1994 and 1995 the IGRA Finals Rodeo was held at the National Western Stock Show Complex in Denver, and Jonny was probably working in the chutes. She was extremely proud when she was invited to be the only woman to help move the stock at the 1995 or 1996 Pro-Rodeo which was held during the National Western Stock Show.

During her rodeo years, Jonny moved away from Colorado for a short period of time. She finally decided it was time to come back to her beloved Colorado and lived her final years in Idaho Springs enjoying the fishing and working security for Fitzgerald's Casino. She was always happiest sitting at the lake shore fishing and reading a good book.

Jonny passed away on September 18, 2008 and her final wish was to have her ashes spread in the Rocky Mountains. Her family granted her that wish on her 54th birthday and released her to the mountains she loved so dearly. Her family loved her and miss her every day, but will always have fond memories of her.

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