Billy W. Wootres Sr.
April 13, 1927 - September 07, 2009
Click Image to Enlarge
Click Images to Enlarge
Fig.1-by Alvin Chewiwi
Fig.2-by Brian Greene
Fig.3-by Clay Miller
Fig.4-by Paul Brinegar
Fig.5-by Paul Zalesak
Fig.6-by Paul Zalesak
Albuquerque Journal Newspaper - Obituary - Billy W. Wootres Sr.
Billy W. Wootres Sr., 82, passed away September 7, 2009.
Billy was born on April 13, 1927, to John W. And Willie McCargo Wootres in Las Vegas, New Mexico. He is survived by Vivian, his wife of almost 52 years. Other survivors include daughter Wanda Wootres and husband Bill Jaynes, daughter Nelda Pocs and husband Rene, grandson Corey Christman and wife Sandra; grandchildren Jonna and Cole Jaynes, and granddaughter Tracy Pocs; great grandsons Marcus and Matthew Christman; nephew Christopher Wootres of Virginia; and nieces Roberta Tarling of England, and Cathay Lewis of Wales. His son, Billy Jr., his parents, and his brother, Jack, preceded him in death.
Following a short stint in the Navy, Billy attended New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas. He taught the first Vocational Leather Craft Class at the University. Billy served a 4-year saddle making apprenticeship in Abilene, TX, and worked as a Journeyman Saddlemaker in many Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California saddle shops. He also owned saddle shops in Las Vegas, Albuquerque, and Mountainair. Billy was a well-known saddle maker and leather carver. He made about 3000 saddles during his career, and many are still used on ranches in NM, TX, AZ, and CA. Some of them have been in use for 40 years. While living in Albuquerque, Billy made 27 saddles for the Bernalillo County 4-H Rodeos. At one time, he sold his tools and retired due to poor health. He couldn't obtain tools quickly enough when his health improved, so he began designing and making tools himself. Some of his tools were bought by leather carvers from other countries. Billy made his last saddle in 2005 and donated it to Cowboys for Cancer Research (C4CR) at their team roping event in Las Cruces, NM. C4CR raffled the saddle, and donated the $13,400 in proceeds to the University of New Mexico Cancer Research and Development Center in Albuquerque. One of the winners of a Billy Wootres trophy saddle at the 1989 4-H Rodeo was riding his saddle at the 2005 team roping.
Later this month, Billy will receive the prestigious Don King Saddlemaker Award given by the Academy of Western Artists. He was elected unanimously by a panel of his saddle making peers.
Billy was a member of Eastern Hills Baptist Church and the New Mexico Roadrunner Leather Guild. He was a member of Five Points Masonic Lodge and Scottish Rite, El Paso, TX. During his rodeo days, he was a member of the Rodeo Cowboys Association, which is now the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. He was a Master Gardner and gave classes on gardening methods.
Family and friends paid their respects at French Mortuary on Wednesday, September 9th. Services were held at Eastern Hills Baptist Church, Albuquerque, NM on September 10, 2009. Pallbearers were Corey Christman, Cole Jaynes, Christopher Wootres, Philip Jones, Paul Brinegar, and Paul Zalesak. Honorary pallbearers were Jonna Jaynes, Tracy Pocs, Rene Pocs, Bill Jaynes, John Atkins, G.M. "Dogie" Jones, and Alvin Chewiwi. Following cremation, a private graveside service was held at the Mountainair Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions my be made to:
University of New Mexico Cancer Center MSC 084630
Attention Development Department, (Indicate "In Memory of Billy Wootres")
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131
Cowboys for Cancer Research
P.O. Box 202
Las Cruces, NM 88032
Eastern Hills Baptist Church
3100 Morris NE
Albuquerque, NM 87111
First Baptist Church
Mountainair, NM 87036.
Biography - Billy Wootres, Master Saddle Maker
Billy Wootres was born on April 13, 1927 in Las Vegas, New Mexico. It was at about the age of ten that Billy found work for himself in the saddle shop of Mr. Billy Green in Las Vegas, New Mexico. That year of 1937 saw the beginning of a lifetime of saddle making excellence and leather artistry from the heart and hand of Mr. Billy Wootres. Billy worked for Mr. Green right up until a hitch in the Navy struck him as a pretty good way for a fresh-faced kid from the cattle country of northeastern New Mexico to see a little of what else lay hidden out there in the world. So that's what he did.
Mustering out after serving his time before the mast, Billy returned home to Las Vegas where he began teaching vocational leather craft. To do it though, he found it necessary to put together the first vocational leather craft course ever offered at New Mexico Highlands University.
After a time Billy undertook an apprenticeship with saddle maker, Mr. O.W. Jolly, in his shop in Abilene, Texas. Successfully completing his apprenticeship, journeyman saddle maker, Billy Wootres, worked his way around Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, honing his skills and broadening the scope of his understanding at benches in many a good shop throughout the southwest. They were places like Brown's Boots and Saddles and Dan's Boots and Saddles in Albuquerque and Slim Green's in Tesuque, New Mexico. There was time spent working for Guy Reedhead in Phoenix, and Wall's Livestock Supply in Porterville, California. In Texas, Billy made saddles, tacks, and accoutrements for Johnny Bean and S. D. Myers in El Paso. He also worked with Wilburn Thomas' outfit in Silver City, New Mexico and made saddles for the stars with Edward H. Bolin in Hollywood. Through the years, Billy operated several saddle shops of his own in Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Mountainair, and El Paso. Every place Billy put his tools to the task, he worked to get better, and his renown for excellence, craftsmanship, and beauty grew, making his work ever more highly sought after.
Such was Billy's renown that he was commissioned to build 27 trophy saddles for the Bernalillo County, 4-H Club rodeos. Every one of those saddles were bought and paid for by "The Albuquerque Journal" newspaper organization. The custom design work and stamping on them was donated by Billy himself.
Health concerns forced Billy to retire from saddle making for a time but by 1998, his health having improved, he was back at the bench operating Wootres' Hand-Carved Leather, in Albuquerque, New Mexico; his objective being the improvement of his carving to the point of heirloom-quality work. One would also find him there making and selling his own stamping tools while still finding time to teach leather carving to several protégés and local guild members.
Billy made his last saddle in March 2005 and donated it to Cowboys for Cancer Research (C4CR), at their team-roping event in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
In 1977 Sid Latham, of Leathercraft magazine, wrote a feature article about Billy. Examples of his artistry have graced the cover of the Hide Crafters Digest and been published in Shop Talk magazine.
In August of 2009, Billy was invited by the Academy of Western Artists to receive the prestigious, "Don King Lifetime Saddle Maker Award," to be presented in Garland, Texas in September.
We Remember Billy Wootres
Billy was the consummate carver. Those of us in the Roadrunner Leather Artisans Guild have lost a great friend and teacher and mentor. Those of you in the IILG, who knew him, had too short a time with him.
- Paul Brinegar
Sad news indeed. Our sympathies go out to his family and friends.
- Ron Ross
I Pray for his family and friends. RIP Billy.
- Little John France
Billy Wootres' Urn
This beautiful tribute to Billy Wootres was buried in Mountainair New Mexico Cemetery, with Billy's ashes...so it will not be seen by anyone again.
Each leather piece, making up the sides, top and bottom, is different and were tooled by Paul Zalesak, Paul Brinegar, Clay Miller, Brian Greene, and Alvin Chewiwi -- all of which worked with and were taught by Billy.
Photos of the urn (see left column)
Fig.1 - Side, tooled by Alvin Chewiwi
Fig.2 - Side, tooled by Brian Greene
Fig.3 - Side, tooled by Clay Miller
Fig.4 - Side, tooled by Paul Brinegar
Fig.5 - Bottom, stamped by Paul Zalesak
Fig.6 - Top, tooled by Paul Zalesak
Fig.7 - Urn, view 1
Fig.8 - Urn, view 2