Charlene Jespersen, wife of David Mueller, Hanford businesswoman, and California rodeo champion, died Sunday, July 10, 2022, at her home. She was a secretary for the Hanford Adult High School for 37 years, which accommodated her schedule for co-ownership of Almas Flea Market and her passion for riding.
Charlene was born in Bakersfield, California, on March 28, 1936 to Hoke and Alma Evetts who had moved from Oklahoma to southern California for jobs in the fish canneries. After a short time, they moved to Pumpkin Center to pick cotton, milk cows, and work in agricultural aspects of the community, with Hoke learning to be an auctioneer. Hoke and Alma went on to become prestigious entrepreneurs, each with their own successful businesses.
During those years in Bakersfield, Charlene attended Panama School where she excelled in sports and academics and graduated as the most outstanding girl in her class. (The most outstanding boy was Jimmy Bugni, of Bugni Brothers Hardware in Pumpkin Center, who in later years, ran his business out of Hoke’s first Auction barn.)
Charlene graduated from Bakersfield High School with honors as a business major. She was a member of a women’s athletic club, Leaders, and in her senior year was voted Most Outstanding Leader.
During her high school years she was also a member of 4H and raised Hereford steers. In the early 1950s at the Kern County Fair, she won Reserve Champion, and the next year she won Grand Champion.
One year at the fair, she decided to enter the Round Robin animal showing contest. She was challenged to show a steer (which she knew how to do,) and a sheep, pig and dairy cow, (which she had never done.) Just by watching the other contestants, and asking some of the kids she knew some quick questions, she figured it out - and won. She was a born competitor.
Her interest in rodeo began when she watched her dad rope in jackpot ropings. She started roping with him and after a few years, transitioned to barrel racing. She was a member of the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association for over 50 years.
In the mid 1960s, when she was in her 20s, she won the California State Barrel Racing Championship several times. She spent her life going to a barrel race every weekend, sometimes extending herself into other states. She was revered by her peers, often spoken of in her world as a legend and a hero.
In 2013, the WPRA presented her with the California Pioneer Girl Award for being a true trailblazer and an inspiration to other cowgirls. In 2017, she was chosen to be the Grand Marshal for the Chowchilla Stampede Rodeo. Coincidentally, it was on the Chowchilla rodeo grounds, many years before, where her mother, Alma Evetts, launched her barrel racing career at the age of 40.
In the tradition of age being no barrier for the Evetts women, at 78 years old, Charlene had the second fastest time out of 700 contestants at the National Barrel Racing Super Show in Las Vegas. At the age of 79, she placed third in the California Finals out of the top 12 barrel racers in California.
Charlene’s motto was, I always go out there to win. It was that enduring spirit that won her a crowd of admirers.
Besides her parents, Charlene was predeceased by her son Reg Alan Jespersen, nephew John Holcomb Weimer, stepson Mark Mueller and her lifelong friend, Donna Bullock Bugni.
Left to mourn her, including her husband David, are: brother H.P. Evetts and wife Stephanie, sister Tonja Evetts Weimer Pearce and husband Vik Pearce, step son Kevin Mueller, sister-in-law Corinne Bettencourt and husband Bob, Evetts nieces and nephews Houston, Kailee, Savannah, George and Monty, step nephew Gage Medico, nieces Allyn Weimer, Aneysha Pearce, Malini Pearce, nephew Kenny Weimer, several grand nieces and grand nephews, cousins, and many close friends including Trois Harmon, Delores and Al Maas, Al Tolle, Sandy Perez and Judy Marshall.
Peoples Funeral Chapel is handling arrangements.
Charlene competing at the Cow Palace in San Francisco.
Charlene and her husband, David Mueller. – Christy Burleson photo