Fannin County rodeo icon dies

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FANNIN COUNTY, TX -- Friends and family of a local rodeo icon are saddened tonight. Haynes Kueckelhan, the founder of Fannin County's Kueckelhan Rodeo died Friday.

77-year-old Haynes Kueckelhan died Friday morning at a Plano hospital. His family says he suffered a head injury in a fall two weeks ago, and died from complications.

His death comes just one week before the 58th annual Kueckelhan Rodeo, something that friends and family members say was his passion, and will be his legacy.

"That rodeo was his life. That was his under-taking. That was his business, main thing for the year. That was what he looked forward to every year," friend Todd Porter said.

Porter says when he thinks of the word rodeo, he sees Haynes Kueckelhan, and Larry Gardner agrees.

"I knew him forever you might say. As long as I've been alive," Gardner said.

Kueckelhan started the iconic Kueckelhan Rodeo. What started out as just a couple of cowboys getting together to ride, turned into a 58-year rodeo legacy in Fannin County.

"They was just a few of them got together on a Sunday, the way I understand it. They was just riding rough stock some, on Sunday. And it just progressively got bigger, and bigger, and bigger. Every body just decided they wanted to ride more and it just bloomed out and got to be a big deal," Gardner said.

"He knew what he was doing. He locked in on it. He just had a passion for it," Porter said.

Thousands pack this arena three nights out of the year. But, this year the familiar face, the one who started it all, will be missing.

"We'll all miss Haynes. I mean, every body will have it on their mind that Haynes is not there," Gardner

Kueckelhan was also a retired ag teacher at Sam Rayburn schools. Friends say he was active in several rodeo organizations.

Kueckelhan's family says he was a western icon who will be missed by the entire North Texas community for his contribution to the rodeo industry, and western way of life.

They released this statement:
"We would like to express our deepest gratitude for the tremendous support, love and prayers during this time of great loss. As a family, we will never forget his steadfast ways, Christian example and faithfulness to the Lord."

Friends and family say the show must go on, because Haynes wouldn't have it any other way. So, the rodeo's opening night is July 25 at 8 pm. It runs through Saturday night.

Funeral arrangements are pending.