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WPCA Deeply Saddened By The Death Of Former Chuckwagon Driver Gordon “Bunkey” Stewart

Posted By Billy Melville on December 7, 2023

Gordon “Bunkey” Stewart
September 6, 1934 – November 30, 2023

Competing at his first Calgary Stampede Rangeland Derby in 1985
Billy Melville Collection

The World Professional Chuckwagon Association is deeply saddened by the death of former chuckwagon driver Gordon “Bunkey” Stewart on Thursday. November 30th, 2023 from natural causes at the age of 89.  (“Bunkey” was the nickname given to Gordon as a child and comes from the book series Noddy and the Bunkey, where Bunkey is a thoroughly mischievous character.)

After racing pony chuckwagons and chariots, Gordon Stewart was 40 years old when assembled his first thoroughbred chuckwagon outfit in 1975 thanks to the help of chuckwagon legend Tom Dorchester. He bought a permit with the Canadian Rodeo Cowboys Association (CRCA – the predecessor of the WPCA) and drove his first race at the Ponoka Stampede that summer. In 1976, while still competing on a permit, Bunkey raced on the Calgary track for the first time in the Calgary Stampede’s Saturday Morning Round-Up. He took out full membership in 1977, ran his first race as a professional chuckwagon driver at the Rimbey Race Meet, and won his first show championship just two years later in 1979 at the Valleyview Chuckwagon Races, establishing a track record in the process.

The 1980 season was a breakout year for Gordon. First, he set the track record at the Teepee Creek Stampede. Second, he captured the second show championship of his career when he swept the chuckwagon championship in Ft. St. John, British Columbia by winning first place money three times in three days – a perfect show. Lastly, he finished out the 1980 season with a second victory on the season, and the third of his career, at the Fort Nelson Chuckwagon Races in Fort Nelson, British Columbia.

In 1981 the professional chuckwagon drivers decided to leave the CRCA and go out on their own as the World Professional Chuckwagon Association (WPCA), and Gordon was a founding member of the WPCA. 1984 saw Gordon crack the top ten in the World Standings for the first time in his career, placing seventh overall, and earning a spot to his first Calgary Stampede Rangeland Derby in 1985. In his first Calgary Stampede, Bunkey posted 4 runs inside the top ten, including two runs that cracked the top five. He placed a very impressive 14th overall in aggregate time and 11th overall in money won. Later that same year he received an Active Supporter Award from the WPCA. In 1987 Bunkey placed inside the top ten in the World Standings for the second time and was the least penalized driver on the WPCA Pro Tour in the process.

1989 would be quite a year for Gordon Stewart. He qualified for the lone Championship Final Heat of his career at the Grande Prairie Stompede, and was runner-up to champion Dallas Dorchester. A few weeks later he won what would be the biggest show championship of his career at one of the biggest shows of the day at the North American Chuckwagon Championship in High River, bettering eventual World Champion Chuckwagon Driver George Normand by a mere 3 one-hundredths of a second to capture the title. The win also vaulted Bunkey to the top of the World Standings for the only time in his career.

At the 1989 Calgary Stampede, Procter & Gamble sponsored Bunkey’s wagon as a special promotion for their “Crisco” brand, using the exposure the chuckwagon races brought as a business building venture. The Crisco name on the canvas prompted legendary track announcer Joe Carbury to dub Gordon “The Crisco Kid,” a moniker that would last for years. It was an extremely successful Calgary Stampede for both driver and sponsor as on the final night, Gordon closed out the 1989 Rangeland Derby by winning the day money, and later that year, the Calgary division of Procter & Gamble won the Fortune 500 company’s worldwide award for Best Special Event in 1989 for their involvement with the Gordon at the Calgary Stampede. It was the first time a Canadian division had ever won an award from the Procter & Gamble head office. Gordon finished out the 1989 season seventh in the World Standings, tying his career best, and received the WPCA Most Improved Driver Award. “The Crisco Kid” drove at his final Rangeland Derby in 1990, once again running under Procter & Gamble’s “Crisco” canvas.

Over the next three seasons, Gordon competed part-time on the WPCA Pro Tour, and in 1993 he ran his final race at the show where he ran his first race – the Ponoka Stampede. Bunkey had a very successful nineteen year career as a chuckwagon driver winning multiple show championships including a marquis win, setting track records, competing at and winning day money at the Calgary Stampede Rangeland Derby, and being formally recognized by his peers for his involvement, interest, and dedication to the WPCA, its members and chuckwagon racing in general. Over the course of his career, Bunkey was one of the most recognizable and well liked drivers by the fans, sponsors, race officials, outriders and drivers alike.

Gordon is survived by his wife Gelaine and 4 sons Wesley, Dusten, Matthew and Kenneth; 7 grandchildren Crystal, Gwen, Aaron, Cody, Janine, Guy and Austin; and 5 great grandchildren Jayden, Parker, Nixon, Skylar and Zoey.  He was predeceased by his parents Verona and Russell, his sisters Valerie and Caroline, and his granddaughter Jessica.  He is survived by his brother Danny and sister Terry.

There will not be a funeral at Gordon’s request, but an informal gathering in the spring.

Bunkey will be missed by all in the WPCA, and we extend our sincere condolences to the Stewart family.

Billy Melville

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