November 29, 1939—April 5, 2020
Cowboy John, from a young boy, was fascinated with horses. His family lived in Indiana which is pig-farming country, no horses, no cowboys. Even as a young boy, though, he knew he had to have horses.
It’s 1945, after World War II, and John’s parents, Ruth and George Collett, begin their move to Elko, Nevada. Dr. George Collett would join other MDs, Leslie Moren, Tom Hood, and, later, George Manilla, to form the Elko Medical Clinic and, build the General Hospital in town.
Up to that time John had seen horses and cowboys only in story books: Michael, The Colt; Born to Trot; King of the Wind; Sea Star, Orphan of Chincoteague; The Book of Cowboys; and Comanche. When the family moved to Nevada the dream became reality because real horses and cowboys were right in town at the fairgrounds because Elko is Cowboy Country!
Summer of 1946 the Collett family began what turned out to be 5 years of driving north out of Elko to the ranch of a patient, Bertie and Golden Hyde, in Roland, Idaho. That first day the Hydes convinced Ruth and George to let their son stay on the ranch through the summer which turned out to be five summers. Then, every fall, Bertie and Golden would bring John and his black mustang, Tramp, (by then John had his own horse, a black mustang taken off the Diamond A desert between Idaho and Nevada) back to town before school started so he and Tramp could ride in the parade and take part in “Town Class” competition in the center ring during the Elko County Fair. Downstairs we have many small gold cups John and Tramp won.
After summers on the ranch, working on the Glaser Ranch east of Elko, and following graduation from Elko High School, John headed for the College of Idaho, a small liberal arts institution in Caldwell where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree. It was at the College of Idaho that he met and married his wife, Janice Haagensen.
John began his life insurance career with the Mutual Benefit Life Insurance Company in the John Q. Ryan Insurance Agency. He was chairman of the Elko Centennial Pony Express reenactment in 1969, a member of the Elko JCs, The First Presbyterian Church, and the Elko Lions Club.
In 1973 Janice and John left Elko for Reno where John sold life insurance with The Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, Springfield, Massachusetts. He was a District Agent for MassMutual, a member of the Million Dollar Roundtable, named several times Agent of the Year for the Nevada Insurance Agency, president of Reno Life Underwriters, a member of the Life Underwriters Training Council, and President of the Reno Lions Club.
In 1989 the family returned to Elko, and John continued selling life insurance. During the Elko County Fair and Livestock Show he announced ranch competitions in the center ring.
He was a Charter member of the Rotary Club of “Elko Desert Sunrise,” taught an extension class for the Life Underwriters Training Council, was active in the First Presbyterian Church, hiked and skied the Ruby Mountains, fished South Fork and played golf!
From its early beginning John supported the Poetry Gathering, (the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering), and in 2006 he began giving Ranch Tours as a Workshop during the Gathering. The “Ranch Tour” for 2019 finished 14 years of John’s local ranch tours throughout Elko County.
He loved every Ranch Tour, loved the guests who came on the bus with him, many of whom repeated every year, and loved showcasing his favorite people, ranching families.
He loved sharing stories of growing up on a remote ranch, riding for cattle on horseback on the Diamond A, delighted telling the rattlesnake-on-pillow, and the dynamite-explosion-in-the-dead-of-night stories. How many times did he tell his own stories of horses running away with him, fishing in creeks in Roland, and his own near-drowning in spring-runoff-Bruneau River when very young.
His favorite was working with local ranchers, people he respected living a lifestyle he envied, riding for cattle, helping at branding time, and being part of the Fair parade with his gray Arabian horse, Zahnna. He loved Elko County.
He and Janice began a Tour Company, “Cowboy John Tours,” (www.cowboyjohntours.com) which showed prospective employees of the Hospital and local businesses why they would want to live in Elko County. “Cowboy John Tours” also shuttled hikers for the Ruby Crest Trail.
John was born in Crawfordsville, Indiana, November 29, 1939, and died, in his home in Spring Creek, Palm Sunday, April 5, 2020.
He was preceded in death by parents Ruth Leask and Dr. George Collett; sister, Jean C. Andrews; sister-in-law, Louise Collett; brother-in-law, Jerry Warren; brother-in-law, Dr. Richard Andrews and cousin Martin Andrews.
He leaves wife Janice of 57 years of Elko, and sons, Gregory Thomas, (Loni Workman), Ecuador; Nathan Hugh and Daniel John; grandsons, Elan Sol, Lorien F. Collett and Francis F. Collett; brother, Dr. Hugh Collett; sister, MaryAnne Warren; niece, Collett Pruitt; niece, Nanci Warren; niece, Linda Warren, (John Luca); niece, Karen Wilson, (Stewart); niece, Dede Kreisenbeck, (Greg); niece, Viginia Oustad; nephew, George (Liz), and numerous dear friends.
The family is grateful for many friends who called and visited John, took him to the Fair and Cowboy Poetry Gathering, wonderful nurses and staff of Guiding Light Hospice, and owner Roy and staff of “Pill Box Pharmacy,” Khoury’s Spring Creek Market.
A Celebration of John’s Life will be held later in 2020.
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