Family, rodeo at top of list for Terry Crosina

Terry Crosina and husband Willie Crosina were regulars together at the Williams Lake Stockyards. (Photo submitted)
Terry Crosina was the granddaughter of Antone (Antoine) and May Boitanio, pictured at their home circa 1950-60. (Photo submitted)
Terry Crosina (right) and sister Marie Graham enjoy a show at the Williams Lake Stockyards. (Photo submitted)
Terry Crosina rides a horse outside her home at Dog Creek circa 1935. (Photo submitted)

By Liz Twan

Special to the Tribune

Time stands still for no one, not for me or you.

The Cariboo lost a pioneer citizen with the May 16 passing of Terry Crosina, who slipped away peacefully with her husband of 70 years (Willie Crosina) by her side. Terry had struggled with health issues in the past few years and the battle was not to be won.

Willie not only lost a spouse, but his life-long companion and travelling partner as well; the couple did everything together. As a rule, if you spotted Willie, you didn’t have to look far to find Terry, or vice-versa. They came as a set, when you had one, you got the other too. The countless hours they spent as rodeo volunteers are a testament to that, the time logged on behalf of the Williams Lake Stampede (dearest to Terry’s heart), the Williams Lake High School Rodeo, BC High School Rodeo Association, plus many other Western events (ropings, gymkhanas, banquets, auctions) adds up to a staggering total equal to a good portion of both their lifetimes. During the course of years of volunteering the Crosina children, spouses and grandchildren have also been drawn into the volunteer fold, the family following the example set by their parents.

READ MORE: Crosinas lead 43rd an last consecutive trip to Canadian Finals Rodeo

Willie and Terry didn’t just volunteer, they supported rodeo wholeheartedly at every level, spiritually and financially as well; first from Willie’s position as store manager for Riley & McCormick’s Western Store (1972-1983), then as store owners of Willlie’s Western Wear (1983-2002). They supplied rodeo prizes, buckles and trophies at large discounts, in addition they donated cash, gift certificates, trophy buckles/awards and merchandise and more. When Willie worked a charity event, banquet or auction as the MC, auctioneer or bid spotter, Terry was there, front and centre in the crowd, bidding on and purchasing many items in full support of the cause.

Terry was widely-known for her skill as a rodeo-timer, her stopwatch was almost a permanent fixture in her hand. With the number of times she hit the start/stop button it would have been no surprise to see a permanent indentation in her thumb.

The innumerable hours spent sitting in one position in all sorts of extreme conditions took dedication beyond any amount of remuneration paid. As Terry and Willie would attest, their weekend perches generally had room for improvement; often offering little protection from scorching sun, heat, strong winds, driving rains/sleet and leaving was not an option. Terry’s love of rodeo is what kept her in those venues for more than a half a century.

When Terry was working, her concentration was total, nothing could distract her. While much of the rodeo now is timed electronically, timers like Terry are now utilized as back-up unlike the bygone days when Terry and her fellow timers were the only option (there was no back-up, no do-overs and no room for error).

In the rough stock events the timer’s job was to start the stopwatch at the drop of the chute judge’s flag (as the animal cleared the plane of the chute), run it for eight seconds, then stop the watch while simultaneously honking a horn to signal the end of the ride.

At the Williams Lake Stampede to keep her sight line on the flag-drop, Terry had to cross rapidly from side-to-side in the announcers’ stand to look down to see the judge and she let nothing (no one) get in her way as she traversed the space. After some time spent observing this oft-repeated action, rodeo announcer Dave Poulsen likened Terry’s tenacity to that of a ‘pit-bull’, saying ‘nothing was going to deter her’ and then he announced to the crowd of 2,500-plus that he was giving her a nickname. He called her ‘Willie’s Pit-bull’ and told the folks in attendance what led him to that characterization. There was 30 seconds of silence from the crowd, and you could literally have heard a pin drop in the announcers’ stand, as the other occupants (who dared not laugh) nervously awaited Terry’s reaction. A few seconds passed, then Terry threw back her head and roared with laughter! Each ensuing year thereafter Dave would re-gale the crowd with his pitbull-tale, as Terry playfully shook her fist at him, grinning all the while.

Fortunately for Dave, Terry and he shared a special friendship, forged over 20 years of working together in close quarters at the Williams Lake Stampede. While many folks may have been somewhat intimidated by the slightly gruff-speaking, no-nonsense lady garbed entirely black, eyes shuttered in black sunglasses, Dave was not. He just loved to razz Terry. Another source of amusement for Dave was the C+ bulls named after Terry; his favorite was called “Terrible Terry’ and he took genuine delight in teasing its namesake as he extolled the nasty characteristics of the mean, cranky, rank bovine whenever it appeared in the Bull Riding draw. (For years Terry and Willie-Willie’s Western Wear bid for the right to name a C+ Rodeos bull at the annual Stampede fund-raising auction, often paying thousands of dollars to secure the winning bid.)

Another of Terry’s passions were knitting/crocheting, her yarn bag was as much an extension of her as was her timer’s watch. Wherever she was, whenever she was not otherwise occupied, she would sit quietly, with needles clicking. Many organizations benefited from the prolific results; numerous beautiful pink blankets were donated to the Tough Enough to Wear Pink’ campaigns during Stampede, while others made their way to benefits/ auctions/fundraisers in support of the Royal Canadian Legion (Willie is a veteran- the duo loyal Legion supporters), the Wild West Riders (daughter, LeeAnn, lead rider), WL-High School rodeo, BCRA Rodeo and more.

The Crosina, Pigeon and Boitanio families all have deep-rooted pioneer connections in the Cariboo. Terry (nee Pigeon) was raised on the Pigeon Ranch at Dog Creek by her parents Ray and Chrissie Pigeon with her two siblings, sister Marie (Graham) and brother Jim. The Pigeon children’s maternal grandparents were Antone and May Boitanio (Antoine Boitanio). Terry’s grandfather Antone (Antoine) was a Cariboo legend; a sharp-dressed handsome gentleman, a fine stockman, horseman, musician and businessman. By the time Terry was school age, her grandparents ran a boarding house in Williams Lake so Terry was able to reside with them during the school week.

Another of Terry’s favourite haunts was the Williams Lake stockyards, where her father worked part-time for many years and after retirement he and wife, Chrissie held honorary front-row seats at every event held there. From there Chrissie recorded the price on every animal that crossed through the sales ring; after her passing, daughter Terry took her place, faithfully recording each and every pen-weight and sale price for several decades more.

Willie and Terry’s mutual love of rodeo spawned another lifelong adventure, after taking their first trip (many years past) to watch the Canadian Professional Rodeo Finals in Edmonton, the couple decided that they would like to make it an annual trek and were pondering how to afford that on a yearly basis.

It was suggested that if they could ‘deliver’ a busload of Cariboo rodeo fans to the venue annually, that their tickets would be ‘on the house.’ The challenge was taken up and for 43 consecutive years Willie’s Canadian Finals Rodeo tour took place every November until 2019 – Terry only missed one (due to extreme illness).

Last, but far from least, Terry loved her family. She is survived by her husband, Willie Crosina. Her children, sons; Allen (Dianne), Mickey (Liz) , Tony (Kathy) and Raymond; her daughters, Louise Power; LeeAnn (Al Wilson) Crosina. Terry is survived by three additional generations; including many grand-children, great-grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren along with numerous Crosina and Pigeon family members; in-laws, nieces and nephews. Terry is also survived by her sister, Marie (Dave) Graham, sister-in-law, Audrey (Jim) Pigeon and former daughter-in-laws; Donna Willen and Janice Berkan. Terry was predeceased by her parents, Ray & Chrissie Pigeon, her brother Jim Pigeon, brother-in-law, Dave Graham and granddaughter Patricia Crosina.

The family will carry their Western legacy on into the future, their memories of Terry are bountiful and rich in pride. Cowboy Heaven must have needed a timer and Terry’s close friend, former timing-partner, Dionne Allison has been waiting.

READ MORE: Love for rodeo lasts a lifetime

One can’t help but wonder at the wealth Terry and Willie might have accumulated had they earned a dollar for each time Terry started/stopped the time, and Willie announced, ‘And..They Are Out’ or for the countless recitations of the Cowboy’s Prayer. But Terry and Willie would be the first to tell you that they did it ‘for the love of the sport’ and in lieu, amassed a fortune in the innumerable friendships formed over 15 collective decades of rodeo (priceless).

There will be a Celebration of Terry’s life as soon as COVID-restrictions are eased enough to permit such a gathering.

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