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One of the last Frontier cowboys
Jack Shannon — local cattleman icon dies at age 76
Porterville native and Terra Bella rancher Jack Shannon, known by many as one of the last Frontier cowboys, died Monday evening in Visalia, his wife and children at his side. He was 76
Mr. Shannon was a past Tulare County Cattlemen’s Association “Cattleman of the Year,” a past president of the local association and past vice president at the state level — California Cattlemen’s Association. In addition, he was extremely active at both the state and national level, always attending annual conventions and serving on numerous committees at the local, state and national levels, said Randy Baxley, past president of the Tulare County Cattlemen’s Association.
Mr. Shannon was also past board chair of the California Board of Forestry, Land and Ranch Management Coordinator, Tulare County Grand Jury, an active member of the National Rifles Association and of the Porterville Breakfast Lions Club, and though he graduated in 1952, he was always involved with the PHS Class of 1951.
“I’ve known Jack for more than 20 years. He was a gentleman and very well respected by everyone,” Baxley said.
It was a sentiment expressed by many as they learned of his death Tuesday.
“He was one of a kind and the most unforgettable character I have ever met,” said Doug Webb, who Mr. Shannon’s family said was his best friend.
The two men met in the early 1960s when both served in the Porterville Jr. Chamber of Commerce together.
“We became good friends after that,” Webb said and added that the two, with families, traveled through California, Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, Africa, Australia and Europe.
“We are both hunters, I think that’s one thing we really had in common and we went to Africa to hunt.”
Webb said he visited with Mr. Shannon Friday at the hospital.
“I didn’t expect him to go that fast. He was cracking jokes and in good spirits Friday night at the hospital,” Webb said. “He had a real sense of humor and we were always playing practical jokes on each other.”
Though Webb knew he was fighting cancer, his death came as a shock — as it did for many other local residents who also admired him.
“He was one of the last cowboys of the frontier. Jack was one of a kind, a deep-hearted person. A lot of people idolized him and the way he did things,” said Andy Zimmerman, one of Shannon’s cowboys. “I looked up to him. He was a very special man. He was more than a boss. He was like family.”
Mr. Shannon, a third-generation cattleman, was born in Porterville to Reuben and Ione Shannon and never lived more than a mile from his original home.
The working cattle ranch he owns dates back to the 1860s when it belonged to his grandmother’s family and was known as the Simmons’ Ranch. In 1878, the ranch became the Shannon’s Ranch.
A 1952 graduate of Porterville High School, Mr. Shannon attended Fresno State University where he was a member of Sigma Chi Fraternity.
He is remembered by his wife and children — as someone who was had a big love of family, was great in the cattle business and a big supporter of the Porterville Fair.
“It was not ever about making money. It was all about working hard and taking of the land and of the animals. He was also big on education,” his daughter, Susan Shannon said. “It was all about the kids. If the kids didn’t make enough money on their animals, he’d do add-on donations. He was a big sponsor of that. In [May] he went to the Porterville Fair, bought the grand kids’ cattle and had to leave. He was very weak. He suffered from a rare lymphoma but he fought it to the end.”
The 2012 Porterville Fair was the last time John Corkins, Porterville Fair Board Member, saw Mr. Shannon.
“I talked to him then. That was the last time I saw him,” Corkins said. “Jack Shannon was a very loving man — larger than life. He was tall, strong, and you always knew where you stood with him. He always told you what he needed. If you didn’t like it, he didn’t care. You knew exactly where you stood. He didn’t lie and he didn’t try to deceive you.”
Numerous friends and ranchers spoke highly of Mr. Shannon.
“Jack’s been a friend of mine for a lifetime. We were both in the cattle business all our lives,” said Les Guthrie of Porterville. “Jack was a very confident cattlemen, very good at what he did — an outstanding man but also quite the character. He was an interesting person who was outspoken and respected by everyone.”
Survivors include his wife, Frances, his children, Susan Shannon, Bill and Sherry Shannon, John and Carla Shannon, and seven grandchildren — Emily and Jessica Rhodes, and Jake, Blake, Tabatha, Summer and Sarah Shannon.
A public viewing is scheduled from 3 to 7 p.m. Sunday at Myers Funeral Home, 248 N. E Street; and a memorial service, followed by a luncheon, will begin at 11 a.m. Monday at the Porterville Fairgrounds, 2700 W. Teapot Dome.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to an agriculture scholarship fund through the Porterville Breakfast Lions Club, P.O. Box 772, Porterville, CA 93258.
Contact Esther Avila at 784-5000, Ext. 1045. Follow her on Twitter @Avila_recorder.