Shane Drury, a national college bull riding champion who qualified for the National Finals Rodeo in 2000 and later became a PRCA judge after his four-year fight with cancer ended his riding career, died of the disease Oct. 31. He was 27.
He died at his home in Ewing, Neb., hand-in-hand with brothers Chad and Jesse and father Paul standing at his bedside. Memorial services are scheduled for 6 p.m. (CT) Nov. 7 at Faith Community Church in O'Neill, Neb.
Drury was born June 29, 1979, in Cheyenne, Wyo., and was raised in Rapid City, S.D., with his two brothers. He graduated from Southwestern Oklahoma State University in 1999 with a degree in business and joined the PRCA after winning his college bull riding title.
In 2000, he qualified for the NFR, ultimately finishing 10th in the final world standings with earnings of $82,978. Drury started experiencing back pain in 2001, but fought through it, nearly qualifying for the Wrangler NFR again, but finishing 19th in the final world standings.
It was that fighting spirit that endeared Drury to countless friends, in and out of the rodeo arena.
"The thing I'll remember the most is that he never had any quit in him," said Corey Navarre (Weatherford, Okla.), a two-time Wrangler NFR cowboy, college teammate and best friend. "He fought to the bitter end. He'll be remembered by me as a fighter and a good friend. We lost a man of God."
That back pain turned out to be Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that afflicts mostly teenagers, and Drury was diagnosed on May 5, 2002. Following chemotherapy treatments, a tumor that was the size of two clenched fists was removed from his chest cavity, along with parts of four ribs and part of one of his lungs, on Aug. 30, 2002, at the Denver Children's Hospital.
He returned to the rodeo arena in July 2003, recording a qualified ride in Woodward, Kan., and fueling his drive to become an elite bull rider again. But the cancer returned for a second time in 2004, and Drury underwent surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., in September to remove the tumor and the remainder of two of the ribs that had partially been removed during the first surgery.
Drury was later given a clean bill of health and earned his judges card to officiate at PRCA rodeos and stay connected with the sport. He continued to judge at several rodeos around the Prairie Circuit even as his health deteriorated later in 2005, when the cancer returned for a third time.
He decided against further chemotherapy and radiation treatments, but later had a change of heart and entered the Mary Crowley Medical Research Center, located within the Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, for experimental treatments in July.
After a few weeks, however, his condition failed to improve, and he returned to Nebraska the following month.
Despite his prognosis, he tried to keep everyone upbeat, posting messages with scripture passages from the Bible on his Web site, which became inundated with friends and well-wishers posting notes on his message board.
His illness helped keep things in perspective.
"I broke my neck in February, and he came by to see how I was doing," said former traveling partner Lonnie Carpenter (Haysville, Kan.). "He was heading to Texas to see his brother (Chad) and stopped by. I told him that I was OK but sore. He asked me if we wanted to trade. We laughed about it. That's just the way he was. He really reached a lot of people. I look at his picture and see a good friend who was there when you needed him."
In June, he was honored at the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo., by personally awarding a scholarship that bears his name. Susan Kanode, the CNFR media coordinator, established the Shane Drury Scholarship, which was awarded June 16 to Montana State University junior Jyme Peterson.
Drury is survived by his father, Paul, of Brighton, Colo.; his mother, Jo, of Rapid City, S.D.; and brothers, Chad, of Houston and, Jesse, of Sturgis, S.D.
Chad, who manages a medical equipment company in Houston, was allowed a leave of absence from his employer in August. Jesse, who owns a brochure business in Sturgis, spent the last two months in Nebraska to be with his brother.
More information can be found on Drury's Web site, www.shanedrury.net