Charlene Peters first met Val Shearer in 1979, when he was part of the Hesperia Wranglers. It was the start of a friendship that would last 29 years.

Peters said Shearer was always a man of his word: He would always return phone calls. He went to everyone's events, the gymkhanas, rodeos, rodeo queen contests. You name it and he was there.

"We had so much respect for him," Peters said. "He was our mentor."

The Wranglers rewarded their mentor with an honorary lifetime membership when he retired from the group in 1992.

The Shearers attended the annual rodeo until 2006. Despite his age -- he was 89 when she died -- he insisted on driving himself and his wife Anita. Peters and her husband Gary, who sat with the other couple at rodeos, would also follow the couple home, never letting them know.

Shearer never went to a rodeo without Anita. When she died in 2006, it was his last rodeo. Almost 100 people attended her farewell celebration at the Percy Bakker Center, Peters said.

People didn't realize how sick Shearer was. Besides aging, diabetes and losing the love of his life, he was also lonely, Peters said. A strong network of friends pitched in and looked after him with meals, rides and such.

"Oh, how I loved him like a father," she said. "I loved his white hair and his little giggle."

Shearer had joined both the first Hesperia Recreation and Park District board and the first Hesperia City Council out of a love for the rural lifestyle, according to Peters, and fought to preserve it in the face of looming development.

"He was an icon," Peters said.

The last time they spoke was a few days before he died on Friday, August 8. Peters had called to ask a question about the rodeo, they talked for more than 20 minutes. Usually it was hard for him to hear with the oxygen tubes, but this time he could hear despite them.

He asked her if his name was still on the arena. She told him it was.

"Val always had the last word," Peters said. "His friends were his friends until the end."

Sharon Strickland can be reached at 956-7827 or at sharon@hesperiastar.com.