Kendrick Leroy Tucker passed peacefully at his home at Pinto Creek, Roosevelt, AZ on February 2, 2020, with his wife and children by his side. Leroy was born on July 18, 1928, in Greenback, east of Tonto Basin, AZ and was preceded in death by his parents, Roy Esmond Tucker and Georgia Ann Conway Tucker; one sister, Betty Alice Weete, and a son-in-law, John Allen Payne.
Leroy is survived by his wife of 70 plus years, Velma Lucille Tucker of the family home.
a daughter, Tenna Lucille Payne of Tucson, AZ and her children, Austin Louis Payne and wife Jacque of Globe, AZ, and Arron Allen Payne and his friend, Katie Bielewicz of Portland, OR.
a son, Roy Dale Tucker and wife Dorie of Wellington, TX and their daughter, Jessen Carol Cowen and husband Edward James ‘Jake’ Cowen, III, of Benjamin, TX; and Georgia Ann Tucker of Fritch, TX; a daughter, Lea Ann Tucker of Roosevelt, AZ, and her son Steven Lee Whitney of Sunflower, AZ, one nephew Fred Martin of Phoenix, AZ.
Also surviving are seven great-grandchildren, Westen Tucker and Madelyn Mary Grace Payne, Wyatt Wayne and Kaydence Charlene Haverland, Edward James ‘Four’ Cowen, IV; Kaelie Bree and Mariah Lee Whitney.
“Leroy” is what he like to be called and I learned that early on when I married into the family. This southern girl wasn’t accustomed to addressing her elders by their first name, but as Mr. or Mrs. It was awkward at first but soon became easy to just say “Leroy”, especially when his own kids addressed him as such.
Leroy was born in an adobe room of the old Packard home on the Frying Pan Ranch in Greenback. As a bashful and shy young boy, Leroy only had a sister and other female cousin and has conceded that he tagged along and played with them until grew out of that shy stage and into a more rambunctious kid. He may have had some dealings with a schoolmate or two in a fist-a-cuff, which may or may not have expelled him from class; and I’m not certain, but maybe expelled from homeschool as well!
Leroy really didn’t have school on his mind, as he had learned to love the big country and working with his parents to tend the cattle. In grade school, Leroy attended Globe and after a few trying years of living between Globe and Greenback, Leroy’s parents decided to allow him to attend school in Tempe where he lived with close friends. It was there that he finally passed the 8th grade. Leroy, however, didn’t even attend his 8th grade graduation because it was time to help his parents drive the cattle from Greenback to Tonto Basin for shipping. Later, Leroy did attend business school in Phoenix where he learned penmanship, typing and bookkeeping.
After this formal education, Leroy went right back to Greenback to work and trap. He made a little money trapping but could make more money running foot races at Payson during the Fourth of July. That’s why I think he always challenged his grandkids to barefoot races across the yard up until the time they could beat him. He also called himself a “sharpshooter” and might have challenged us to contests with the .22 rifle and to hitting the bullseye. Somehow, he’d barter his way into handicaps that would give him the winning edge.
Leroy has said that growing up in Greenback was HEAVEN, but it was also darn tough. WORK was the daily pastime, but he grew to love it. He referred to ranching as a “quality of lifestyle” that you chose. For instance, trailing cattle from Greenback to Tonto Basin for shipping. While his dad would ride to Globe with the cattle and receive payment, Leroy and his mother would ride the horses back to Greenback. No canteen or water jug and he has lamented how thirsty he was by the time they got to Walnut Springs and then, hopefully reaching their destination by sundown.
Leroy honed his roping skills by doctoring for screw worms with his dad. He could “Country Rope” pretty good, and he roped everything in sight; hogs, sheep, goats, and once he roped his Grandma’s pet deer, “Old Lightfoot” which he said caused one heck of a wreck!
The first time Leroy roped “professionally”, was in 1942 or 43 at Payson. He borrowed a horse from the late George Cline called “Coon” and entered the Boys Calf Roping there. Right here is where he caught the roping bug you might say. He often practiced with the Conway boys, Clarence and E.C. and one time, E.C. and Leroy loaded the old stock truck with E.C.’s buckskin horse and headed to Dewey to rope. It didn’t take Leroy very long to realize that the “country roping” boy was a little out of his league too!
Leroy’s first practice calves were jersey and were bought from Grant Bacon for $20 each and weighed about 250 lbs. Soon, Leroy was handy with a rope, both in calf roping and team roping, so with the help of his good friend Robert “Bob” Mounce, they built a pretty good roping arena to earn a little extra money and I think they must have worked pretty hard at it too. Leroy entered amateur rodeos when time permitted, and his first big win was in 1947 at the Fourth of July Rodeo in Show Low.
Then, there was this pretty little gal that Leroy had noticed but evidently, she didn’t notice him until a rodeo in St. Johns. It was shortly afterwards that they got better acquainted and dated for a spell. Leroy and Velma were then married at Pinto Creek in 1949 which is about when his rodeo career took flight.
Leroy won his first saddle at Tonto Basin in 1950 at the arena behind the Punkin Center Store. He stayed consistent with winning for several years and in 1957 was named the Arizona Rodeo Association’s All-Around Champion. The following year Leroy was the Champion Calf Roper at the Houston Fat Stock Show and Rodeo in Houston, TX where his check was a whopping $4,068.00! I’d say he had found a great good luck charm; you know, “behind every successful man is a good woman.”
Soon after, was the beginning of the Arizona Junior Rodeo Association where Leroy and Velma devoted many years of service to the association for their 3 kids and numerous others.
It was in 1951 when Leroy’s dad passed away leaving the young couple to work the ranch and eventually purchase it from his mother and sister and that’s when ranching became the new norm for their family. Leroy was dedicated to the hard work which was not foreign to him and was necessary to keep the ranch going through some good and lean times with his partner.
You know the saying, “The grass is always greener on the other side”? Well Leroy and Velma packed their little family and headed to California to find those greener pastures. After two moves in the west coast state and realizing that mosquitos and almond and alfalfa farming wasn’t really for them, they packed it back up to AZ to the 5 Slash Ranch outside of Globe. Finally, the old HZ and Bar Eleven Ranches came available and they moved to the A-Cross Road where they were finally back home.
I know you each have your own personal connection to Leroy, memories and all; My personal favorite was the time I told him, “I’m not just beautiful you know.” That really made him rear back in his chair in total surprise! But let me share some of those qualities that I found to make him truly unique.
Leroy was a very wise man, ahead of his time perhaps, with far greater wisdom than his formal education. He was a rancher deluxe, an ecologist, economist, biologist, hydrologist, and environmental conservationist just for starters. He was keenly aware of the vital interactions and connections between plant and animal and how each benefitted one another. He watched the seasons change to reveal key timings for moving livestock to better utilize forages.
In the vast Arizona high desert of the Bar Eleven Ranch, this Mississippi girl was introduced to western ranching in a way she’d never witnessed before. The “cowboy ways” of Mr. Tucker were intriguing to say the least. I had the privilege of riding and working his way and learned that when gathering and working a pasture, there was never much of a spoken word but mostly hand signals and most definitely never loud. Cattle were always handled and worked from horseback and I was pleasantly surprised by the disciplined way to handle cross bred, tiger striped cows. Who knew they were so docile? And always, always on branding day, the corral was full of even sized, soggy calves ready to be worked. The rule for the roper, however, was that the bull calves must be dragged first, and then the heifers. The roper, Leroy Tucker, and I’ve never again, at any time, seen this kind of precision in the branding corral.
As an economist, Leroy worked within his own think tank. He understood that rain is a good thing and water is necessary to what the bottom dollar would look like. Pounds meant dollars and dollars meant profit. The family bookshelf holds an extensive volume of journals accounting for every pound of beef produced during his ranching years; the markets, the trends, the rainfalls plus so very much more. He learned from the weekly livestock papers and predictions from the experts as all were part of the knowledge applied to his daily decisions.
A quote from Benjamin Franklin is fitting; “When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water” and isn’t that just so? Leroy certainly understood this concept. He developed countless springs and spring boxes, kept the leathers good, the rods moving and the fans circling. He worked with governmental agencies to install drinkers and storages tanks in the remotest of areas of the high desert, some even by helicopter.
Let’s not forget Leroy’s ability as a dowser, more commonly referred to as a water Witcher. Believe it or not, but I’ve seen him follow an underground stream flow and then locate the cross section of another to pinpoint the location of well.
Leroy was an environmental conservationist to the core and everything he did revolved around some aspect of managing the natural resources. In fact, I have never even seen him kill a rattlesnake but instead gather the reptile in a 5-gallon bucket and distribute it to a more pristine area to thrive is just one example. Tree pruning only happened at certain times of the year and with special precision. Leroy climbed trees for a very long time to do the chore himself; as recent as 2 years ago!
Leroy always had Velma record when the buzzards came in and when they left, signifying a change in the seasons. He enjoyed healthy quail populations and when there were none, this was a signal of either drought or predators or perhaps both. Rabbits, hawks, owl, dung beetles, lizards, you name it, Leroy paid attention to the details of life and how they interacted in his world.
He loved his fruit trees, especially the apple orchards on the mountain and the grapefruit and orange citrus in the yard. It was always a special outing with the grandkids who would help harvest the ripened fruit to enjoy.
Because of his talents and wisdom in so many areas, Leroy was honored by being named to the Payson Rodeo’s Ring of Honor and as Pioneer Stockman of the Arizona National Livestock Show. Leroy held the office of President of the Gila County Cattle Growers Association and for eleven years he was the Sale Chairman of the Annual Yearling Sale. He served on the Board of Directors of the Arizona Cattle Growers Association, and the Advisory Boards of both the ASCS and United States Forest Service where he was instrumental in developing a cost share program on government lands, giving Gila County ranchers a lifeline in tough times.
Truthfully though, Leroy wasn’t always just business as you might assume. He loved playing horseshoes at the Roosevelt Resort with the guys and a good game of cards with friends, plus an occasional fishing trip on the lake.
Kendrick Leroy Tucker; the husband, the father, the grandfather, the rancher, a true Pioneer. Leroy made many trips around the sun in his natural life and now, the Lord is his Shepherd and he wants for nothing. He rests in those green pastures and walks beside the still waters. His soul is now restored by his heavenly Father.
Go Rest High On That Mountain!