Kenny Dunn

Posted by on August 16, 2011 in Articles, Bulletins, Cutter Spotlight, In The News | 9 comments

Kenny Dunn

Kenneth L. Dunn

Kenny Dunn, 80, of Caldwell, died on Sunday, August 14, 2011 at a Boise hospital.
Kenny Dun was a great icon for Cutting in Idaho, and as he would tell you a very handsome cowboy.
Please share your stories about Kenny with us so we can remember him the way he would have wanted.  With a joke and a smile.
Thank you Laurie Errington, Scootemnshootem Photos for getting these so quickly!

Kenneth Lee Dunn 1931 – 2011 Kenneth Lee Dunn, eldest son of three sons, was born to John “Jack” Dunn and Julia Brown Dunn on May 17, 1931, in San Fernando, California. It was the middle of the depression; but he had an idyllic childhood. His parents, though not wealthy, owned a thriving business, the original Dunn’s Tires. Ken spent his summers running barefoot through his neighbor’s olive orchards or riding his horse in the foothills. On Saturdays, his grandfather Brown would take him to the Santa Monica Pier where the dollar his mother had given him would last all day long for the carnival rides. When he was old enough, he went to work for his dad in the tire shop doing retreads, waiting on customers and talking and talking to everyone, which became his way of life and served him well in his own shop. Life was pretty simple driving around in his ’36 Chevy with the wide whitewalls until he went to a horse club play day and a tall slim girl with a killer suntan and the bluest eyes he’d ever seen borrowed his quirt. She borrowed the quirt, but stole his heart. He was never the same. Her name was Ellen Smith and on June 6, 1954 he changed it to Ellen Dunn. Life was good. He continued working for his dad and in the next few years they had sons Roy Allen, Larry Michael, and, as Ken liked to say, “Daughter Karen Louise just wandered in on her own.” A change in the school system caused the family to move to Placerita Canyon where they built a house. Again, all was well; but, in 1970, Ken decided he needed to be on his own in business. He had been to Idaho on hunting trips and he liked the area. With few belongings, one horse, Mindy, and Karen’s two 4-H sheep; they made the move. They rented a house in Caldwell and bought a service station on Nampa Caldwell Boulevard, which became Dunn’s Tires. Soon they bought the house next door to the shop and since Californians were not that well thought of in Idaho, Ken just told people he moved over from Caldwell. As business warranted, he added to the shop and settled into the community. Roy had graduated, but Larry and Karen were in school at Vallivue High. Karen went back to 4-H raising sheep, but now added a horse named Fee. She joined the Lone Star Riders 4-H Club which was to become a big part of their lives for the next few years. Ken liked to say, “Anyone can sell tires, we sell service.” The word spread and soon he had customers from McDermott, Nevada to Challis and Stanley, Idaho. He supported all of the 4-H groups, often buying their market animals. Ken and Ellen got back to their roots buying horses and joined the American Quarter Horse Association and the Boise Valley Cutting Horse Association. There were so many good horses, but Ken’s young stallion, Snappy Doc, proved to be a natural at everything he did. Ellen was a consistent winner on her pretty little buckskin mare, Sweet Music Girl. With a successful business, many horse activities, and involvement in the kids’ lives; twenty years passed quickly and all of a sudden he received an offer on the business. Ken wasn’t really ready to retire, but in all those years, no one had ever walked in and wanted to buy him out. After much consideration, he decided to sell. Just as suddenly, soon after, Ellen was diagnosed with cancer. It gave him the opportunity to spend more time the next few years with her. Though she fought long and hard, Ellen succumbed to her illness on October 20, 1995. On May 17, 1997, Ken married Janet Gustafson. She and her husband Gary had been friends of Ken and Ellen’s. Their daughter Lisa was also a member of Karen’s 4-H club. Gary had preceded Ellen in death in 1994. In their wedding vows, Ken and Janet told the congregation that their marriage was a tribute to the people who had taught them to love and never wanted them to be alone. Ken and Jan continued to show horses and in 2001 they purchased their stallion, Rooster’s Reflection, at the Polo Ranch in Oklahoma. Rooster became Ken’s partner and the producer of beautiful and talented progeny. They were lucky enough to buy a Gracie Starlight mare, Follow My Star, who is in the process of creating her own dynasty. Until recently, because of good health and good fortune, they were able to do all the things they enjoyed. Ken just celebrated his 80th birthday and at least 79 of those years were lived to the maximum. Recent illness slowed him down, but didn’t diminish his spirit. No one loved life more than Ken Dunn. He loved his work, his wives (both of them), his children and his accomplishments. He reveled in his horses and cherished his friends. Ken was preceded in death by his parents and his wife Ellen. He is survived by his brothers, Earl (Dolores) Dunn and Ned (Babe) Dunn; his children Roy Dunn, Boise; Larry (Janice) Dunn, Eagle; and Karen (Rick) Badillo, Meridian; his wife Janet Dunn and her children Loren (Vicky) Gustafson, Moreno Valley, CA; Lisa (Perry) Evans, Nampa; eight grandchildren and three great grandchildren. Kenneth Lee Dunn, 80, of Caldwell, passed away on Sunday, August 14, 2011 at a Boise hospital. A Funeral Service to honor and celebrate his life will be held at 10:30 AM on Friday, August 19, 2011 at the Nampa First Church of the Nazarene, 601 16th Ave. So. – Burial will follow at the Hillcrest Memorial Gardens, Caldwell. Friends may call at the Alsip & Persons Funeral Chapel, 404 10th Ave. So. – Nampa – 466-3545 on Thursday from 2 – 5 PM. Memories and condolences may be sent to The family suggests that memorial contributions be made to the Boise Valley Cutting Horse Association, 3923 Bennington St., Caldwell, ID 83607 for the Kenneth Dunn Memorial Fund.


  1. “Kenny is famous for his one liners like every time you see him and you are just walking your horse he would tell you “You’re on the wrong lead” or if you ask him how he was feeling he would reach over and lay a hand on you and say “How am I feeling?’ “

  2. Kenny put others before himself

    Kenny liked to call himself the “Handsome cowboy” and he was. Laurie Errington took several pictures of Kenny riding his beloved Rooster. The two of them made such a favorable impression that I decided to breed my mare to Rooster. When Outback Stallion Station gave me the go ahead, I called Kenny and he said, “Bring her right over.” As luck would have it, my mare had come in heat on Kenny’s 75th birthday. I did not know that he had postponed a family dinner until I arrived at his place. I couldn’t believe it when he said, “Put the baby in the pen, tie up the mare and I’ll bring Rooster. We need to breed her in a hurry because my family is waiting at the restaurant to celebrate my birthday.” Talk about “Wam, bam, thank you ma’am!” Record time. Kenny quickly returned Rooster to his stall, washed his hands; he and Jan jumped in the car and beat me down their lane on the way out.

    Kenny was a flirt

    Kenny liked to refer to those of the female gender as his “girlfriend”. The first time he called me his “girlfriend”, I was guarded and not too sure what to think, but I quickly got used to Kenny and his flirting. His “this is your handsome cowboy, how’s my girlfriend?” comments would brighten my day.
    One day the phone rang, and my husband answered it. I could hear Kenny’s familiar voice say, “Hello, this is your wife’s boyfriend.” My husband stares at me with inquisitive eyes, pauses, and then says, “Oh, hi, Kenny.”

  3. I fondly remember meeting Kenny at my first cutting competition. I had a new horse and only knew Tammy Glaser. I was terrified and was questioning my sanity for trying to get into cutting at my age. Tammy introduced me to Kenny, and he started flirting with me the way he does and making me laugh. He instantly put me at ease. He always had a way of making us all laugh, and he’s been a great inspiration for me. I’ll miss that cowboy!

  4. This happened at a BVCHA show long before cell phones were banned from the working arena. Kenny had finished his run but stayed in the working area, seeming to be looking for something. Time passed and he finally looked up, “would someone please call me, I’ve lost my cell phone”. Phone was found and the cutting continued.

  5. Stories of Kenny…wrong leads, wrecked fenders, missing mirrors, broken fence posts…If you knew Kenny, you know what I am talking about. Mostly if you knew Kenny you know that he showed us all how to hold onto our passions in life. Showed us by example that no matter what life throws at you, just keep finding the joy in what you can still do. I will forever hold his friendship in my heart….

  6. “Ken”, “Kenny”, “My Friend”, President of the SOCA, (Senile Old Cutters Association). I had the honor of nominating him and electing him to that position all in one fell swoop of the pen. Pulling a joke on Ken was always a challenge, as he was a master, and I thought I finally really got to him; but as usual he turned the tables. I overheard him at a cutting talking to a bunch of people about his new position, President of the SOCA, and he was having a membership drive? There were no membership requirements, just $20.00 dollars dues, made payable to Ken Dunn.
    Ken went to Butch Otter with his idea of the Idaho quarter, but Butch had to pull the quarter after two days; 2 dimes and a nickel taped together were pluggin’ the machines.
    When I first moved to the Boise valley, one of my first visits was to the tire shop, known as Dunn’s tire. I had a 4 horse inline bumper pull which Ken got to know and love. It ate tires and bearings with abandon. I’d come limping to the shop, Ken would meet me with a big grin, pull me right in and get to work. After a couple of his jokes he’d wave and say, ”See you in a couple days”! I always wonder if he knew something I didn’t. After 27 visits and thousands of dollars, Ken convinced me the “inline” had to go. He even had a customer who might buy it; never lose a cash cow!
    I’m sure going to miss that man at the cuttings, but I know he is going to be right beside me when I ride to the herd.

  7. I met Kenny several years ago, but I really got to know him about 5 years ago. As a secretary at the cuttings I could always count on his one liners and kidding around to keep me on my toes! When he found out where I lived and that he drove by my place on his way out to Richard’s he would call and say “This is your boyfriend, I’m drivin’ by, are you gonna come out and wave at me?”, then on the way back home he’d call again. From Spring til Fall Kenny drove by pretty close to daily. Every once in awhile he’d pull in the driveway and visit for a bit. And, throughout the light hearted conversation he’d sprinkle in some advice for my cutting…. He knew I needed it! I’m really going to miss him.

  8. Kenny was the kind of person that could make people smile, laugh, feel good. I never did hear him complain or catch him with a frown. He was playful, joyful, fun to be around and many of us will miss his uplifting spirit. He sure loved horses and he had some good ones too. We will miss him.

  9. We sure will miss Ken’s great sense of humor, he sure could make you fill great to be around.Will, miss this true Cowboy!! May we keep his memories, by seeing all his wonderful horses he has brought to Idaho. Miss Ya Kenn.

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