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WPCA Shocked and Saddened By The Sudden Passing Of Former Chuckwagon Driver Ray Mitsuing

Posted By Billy Melville on April 29, 2024

Ray Mitsuing
September 12, 1953 – April 25, 2024
Competing at his first Calgary Stampede Rangeland Derby in 1984
Photo Courtesy of Billy Melville Collection

The World Professional Chuckwagon Association was shocked and saddened by the sudden and unexpected news that former chuckwagon driver Ray Mitsuing “Went West” as the result of a tragic accident on Thursday, April 25, 2024 at the age of 70.

Ray began his career in the early/mid 1970’s driving thoroughbred chariots where he became champion over the next ten years. Legend has it that Ray went undefeated as a chariot racer for two consecutive years. Needing a new challenge, Ray transitioned from driving thoroughbred chariots to thoroughbred chuckwagons and joined the Northern Chuckwagon Racing Association (NCRA) – a predecessor of the Canadian Professional Chuckwagon Association (CPCA) in 1983. He drove his first chuckwagon race that year at Pierceland, Saskatchewan, and by the time the season was over, Ray placed a remarkable fifth overall in the NCRA standings in just his first year of competition, and was named the NCRA’s Top Rookie Driver for 1983. It was the start of one of the most impressive careers the sport of chuckwagon racing would ever see.

Ray made his first start at the Calgary Stampede Rangeland Derby in 1984 and placed a very respectable 12th overall in the aggregate standings, and for the second consecutive year finished his season off in fifth place overall in the NCRA standings. He won his first show championship in Craven, Saskatchewan in 1985, and made his first appearance the Cheyenne Frontier Days that same year. It was 1986 when Ray really showed the world that he could not only compete at chuckwagon racing’s highest level, but that he would be a legitimate contender for the Rangeland Derby when he won first place on consecutive nights at the Calgary Stampede, and finished in ninth place overall. Two years later in 1988, Ray qualified for the Championship Final Heat at the Calgary Stampede for the first time and was the reserve champion to Dave Lewis by just 69 one-hundredths of a second. In the weeks to follow, Ray captured his first Cheyenne Frontier Days Championship, and the following year, Ray closed out the 1980’s by winning the Northern Professional Chuckwagon Association (NPCA – now CPCA) overall championship for the first time, thus ending chuckwagon legend Buddy Bensmiller’s record of six consecutive NPCA Championships.

Over the next 30 chuckwagon seasons, Ray Mitsuing’s career became the stuff of legends. In 1992 he was the Calgary Stampede’s Aggregate Champion, made his second appearance in the Rangeland Derby’s Championship Final Heat, and for the second time was the Rangeland Derby’s reserve champion, this time to Tom Glass by just 57 one-hundredths of a second. Ray would go on to win the CPCA Championship seven times, five times he would be the CPCA’s High Point Driver, and three times he was the champion of the Cheyenne Frontier Days. Ray had seven horses named to the CPCA’s Equine Outfit of Excellence, one horse name to the Calgary Stampede’s Equine Athlete of Excellence, twice was named the CPCA’s Most Improved Driver, won the CPCA’s Bruce Bremner Memorial for best barreling outfit in 2012, and in 2010 his family was chosen as the CPCA Family of the year. In his 36th and final appearance at the Calgary Stampede in 2019, Ray won day money on night 8, and crossed the finish line first in his final race on night 10. Later that summer, Ray capped off his extraordinary career with a victory in his final start as a chuckwagon driver at the 2019 CPCA Finals in Lloydminster. Ray’s final race was in his record 13th and final trip to the Championship Final Heat for the overall CPCA Championship in 2019 as well.

In his 37 year career as a chuckwagon driver, Ray Mitsuing amassed over 70 major awards and victories and set 13 track records on the CPCA Circuit. He was a four-time winner of the CPCA’s Prairie Racing Series, and a multi time champion of some of chuckwagon racing’s oldest events including the Wainwright Stampede where he was a seven-time champion and the Meadow Lake Stampede where he was a five-time champion. His streak of 36 consecutive appearances at the Rangeland Derby is among the longest of all time.

Outside of the racetrack, Ray was just 24 years old when he was first elected Chief of the Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation in Loon Lake, Saskatchewan and served the Nation as Chief for sixteen years. He also served the CPCA on the board of directors for many years as a board member and in the role of President of the association. On February 16, 2016, Ray was appointed to the Senate of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN). In 2003 Ray received the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) Sports and Recreation Award, and was inducted into the Saskatchewan Horse Federation’s Hall of Fame in 2020. On April 9, 2024, just two weeks prior to his passing, it was announced that Ray would be the first chuckwagon driver to be inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame. Although Ray never ran with the WPCA, he competed alongside many WPCA members during his four decades at the Calgary Stampede.

Ray Mitsuing was champion both on and off the racetrack, and leaves a legacy that will not soon be forgotten. In addition to his many accomplishments throughout his distinguished career, Ray was a mentor and inspiration to many young chuckwagon competitors, namely his sons Devin and Dale who each won the CPCA Championship as chuckwagon drivers, as well as son Darren who was the CPCA’s Champion Outrider in 1998. Ray was a proud indigenous leader who mentored other indigenous youth, was a fan favorite at the Rangeland Derby, and a well respected individual and competitor.

Ray leaves to mourn; his loving wife Josephine of 52years, his children; Darren (Renita), Dean (Nicole), Devin, Dale, took as his own; Clement (Carla), Kenneth (Anita), Raymond (Lil Frog), Desmond, Blake: raised his grandchild, Lucus: his grandchildren; Delray, Raylee, Ryder, Harriette, Darlynn, Taylor, Deano, Alexie, Colton, Rylan, Brayden, Keshay, Trent; his great grandchildren Liam, Jaxon, Nico, Kayden, and Kyro: his siblings; Joyce, Dorothy (Joe), Robert (Darlene), Leon, Adrian, Elphy (Nicole), and Neil (Diane).

He is predeceased by: his grandparents, Philip (Choochum) and Katie (Mama) Mitsuing; his mother, Emma Mitsuing; her brother, Ralph Mitsuing; his sister Irene Mitsuing.

Wake Services for Ray Mitsuing are scheduled for Tuesday, April 30th, followed by the funeral service on Thursday, May 2nd at 11am at the Jason Morningchild Memorial Arena in Loon Lake, Saskatchewan. The services will be open to all that knew “The Chief.”

Ray will be dearly missed by all in the WPCA, and by chuckwagon fans everywhere, and we extend our sincere condolences to the Mitsuing family.

Billy Melville with assistance from Emily Belll

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