This year's Houston Rodeo has already been touched by tragedy. While on the trail to RodeoHouston, veteran Beaumont-area rider Robert D. Joe suffered a heart attack and died.
Joe, 79, was one of the last two surviving founders of the Northeastern Trail Ride, founded in Cheek, Texas in 1982, which included 12 wagons and nearly 350 riders.
The group, which has been an official part of RodeoHouston since 1995, is dedicated to educating people on the history of the American cowboy as well as the contributions of black cowboys.
He loved the trail so much that even when others his age had long retired, Joe continued to ride.
According to Williams, Joe fell ill while waiting at a gate at Bruno's Triangle 7 Arena on Thursday morning.
"He told his son Joshua that he was hurting, but didn't know what was wrong," Williams told the Chronicle. "Then his wife called for an ambulance."
Joe's wife, Marie "Cathy" Joe, was by her husband's side the entire time.
"He died doing what he loved to do and that's what I told his kids," trail boss Anthony Bruno told KHOU 11.
Joe's boots were lovingly hung on his wagon — custom made to look like a hearse — in tribute. He loved the trail so much that even when others his age had long retired, Joe continued to ride.
"I quit, but he was still left, so you know he must have loved it," former trail boss Joe Bruno told KHOU.
He is survived by his wife and seven children.