Greta Hassler and her family moved to Milton-Freewater from Kansas to escape the Dust Bowl. Her parents, Lyle and Wilma “Billie” Brown, eventually purchased acreage outside Milton-Freewater, where she grew up, surrounded by horses and cattle. She and her family have been involved in the Walla Walla Fair and Frontier Days for literally decades.As a youngster, Greta competed in pony races and exhibited livestock at the Fair.Her father and brother (Ramon Brown) provided the roping calves for the rodeo for many years.Greta served as 4-H horse superintendent for the Fair.Her husband, the late Gene Hassler, was a PRCA rodeo competitor of some note, competing in calf roping, steer roping, and steer wrestling/bulldogging throughout the Pacific Northwest.Her daughter Kathy was on the Walla Walla fair court and competed in high school rodeos, and her son Cody also competed throughout high school and then went on to compete professionally in calf roping for years.
When she was a Fair Farmerette her court horse became lame.The advisors asked some of the rodeo cowboys who were competing at Walla Walla if they had a horse she could use.Future husband Gene Hassler agreed and that’s how they met, at the Walla Walla rodeo.After her tenure as a Fair Farmerette, she became an advisor to the Walla Walla Wagonettes, readying the members for participation in parades and for drilling at Walla Walla.After their marriage she and Gene acquired their ranch outside Lowden, where they built a roping arena and farmed and raised cattle and horses.
For many decades cowboys who were competing at the Walla Walla Rodeo stayed at the Hassler ranch and utilized the roping arena there to practice calf and steer roping and bulldogging/steer wrestling before and after slack and the nighttime rodeo competition.Greta has always been a presence in the arena at Walla Walla, helping line out the contestants, giving advice and anything else needed, as all competitors and arena personnel know her, respect her, and listen to her.Many times, she has known several generations of those competitors.
Greta and Gene spent 50 years together at the Walla Walla Fair & Frontier Days Rodeo and then she and Don Powers enjoyed another 18 years at the rodeo.
She and Gene were both members of the PRCA, which was necessary for her to time at rodeos, and both received PRCA gold cards.For over 40 years she timed rodeos in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana, including their various circuit finals.Locally, she and Billie Talbot timed together for many years, a well-known and respected duo.
Walla Walla Fair and Frontier Days is special to Greta.When she was a member of the Washington State Fair Commission, she campaigned successfully for grant money for special projects on the grounds.
She has been a judge of at least ten state rodeo royalty contests, as well as Canada’s, for the young women to represent their state at the Miss Rodeo America contest at the National Finals Rodeo.States include, but are not limited to, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, California (twice), Oklahoma, as well as Miss Rodeo Canada and others.She also judged many rodeo royalty pageants.
Greta also worked in the rodeo office at the Pendleton Round-Up for over 50 years and rode in the Happy Canyon pageant for many years, and received a lifetime gold card for the Roundup for her volunteering.
Greta and her dear friend Shirley Dickerson were charter members of the Milton Freewater Pioneer Posse when it originated 76 years ago and Greta remains involved to this day.In 2005, she and Shirley were named parade marshals for the Walla Walla Fair and Frontier Days and rode their horses in every parade and at each introduction during the Frontier Days Rodeo.In addition, her late husband was one of the first Walla Walla Rodeo Legends, being named in 2008.
The Walla Walla Fair and Frontier Days Board of Directors is honored to induct Greta Hassler into the 2023 Rodeo Legends Hall of Fame.