Joan Rice, of Athena, holds an outfit that belonged to Lois McIntyre, queen of the 1930 Pendleton Round-Up. The Oregon Supreme Court ruled in Rice's favor in a legal battle over ownership of the fringed skirt, vest and satin shirt.
Lois McIntyre, queen of the 1930 Round-Up, poses wearing an outfit that was the focus of a court case 84 years later.
A five-year legal clash over a rodeo queen’s outfit is finally over.
Two women battled over a fringed skirt, vest, and satin shirt originally worn by 1930 Pendleton Round-Up Queen Lois McIntyre. In January, the Oregon Supreme Court reversed the decisions of two lower courts and decided in favor of Joan Rice of Athena. The case was sent down to circuit court for discovery. Last week, Mary Raab’s attorney, David Gallaher, called Rice’s attorney and said his client had agreed to release the outfit to Rice in return for dropping the lawsuit.
Rice’s Portland attorney, Cody Hoesly, drove to Pendleton, collected the outfit from Gallaher and delivered it to Rice in Athena.
“She was elated,” Hoesly said.
Rice, 77, who is legally blind, said she ran her fingers over every inch of the heavy, fringed Hamley & Co. leather skirt and vest and the soft, satin shirt.
“I cried,” Rice said.
According to court documents, this legal odyssey had deep roots. After McIntyre’s 1964 death, ownership of the outfit passed to her son Jim, Rice’s husband. Jim agreed to let the outfit go on display at the Pendleton Round-Up & Happy Canyon Hall of Fame, where it stayed for decades.
“The outfit was on display for about 40 years,” said Hoesly. “It was taken in 2000.”
That’s when Mary Raab took the outfit after convincing museum officials that she was entitled to pick it up on behalf of her grandmother and McIntyre’s cousin, Edna Pinkerton-Lieuallen, to whom she said the outfit belonged.
Rice, whose husband had died in 1972, learned of the theft seven years later and filed a lawsuit in 2009. During the first two rounds of litigation in trial and appeals courts, Rice was told that a six-year statute of limitations had run out. Her only option remaining was petitioning the Oregon Supreme Court.
That’s when Hoesly got interested in the case.
“I thought it was unjust,” he said. “I ended up taking the case pro bono.”
Hoesly said the case hinged on interpretation of when the statute of limitations began.
“Did the six-year clock start ticking when the outfit was taken or when she found out about it?” Hoesly said. “Before Joan ever knew the property had been taken, she lost the right to get it back.”
Precedent set in previous legal cases figured into the Oregon Supreme Court’s ruling on the matter. In Berry vs. Branner, for example, a surgeon left a needle in a patient’s abdomen during an operation, which wasn’t discovered until after a two-year statute of limitations had passed. In that case, the court ruled the statute didn’t apply because there had been no discovery of the negligence during the two years. The Oregon Supreme Court made a similar determination with Rice’s case, Hoesly said.
Rice said she never considered not fighting for the outfit.
“I’m not the type to back off if something needs to be corrected,” she said. “I was raised in a family of strong-willed people.”
Though Rice never saw her petite mother-in-law wearing the outfit, a photo of McIntyre in the ensemble hangs on Rice’s living room wall. Rice herself wore it to a high school dance at the Pendleton Country Club. In later years, it hung in McIntyre’s guest room except for the few days every year when she sent it to Portland to be cleaned.
Rice doesn’t know exactly what she will do with the outfit.
“The only thing I’m sure of, it will be displayed,” she said. “It isn’t meant to be in someone’s closet.”
She’s already made good on that promise. After a short stint in the lobby of U.S. Bank, today the outfit goes on display for a day at the Athena Public Library.
Mary Raab’s attorney, Dave Gallaher didn’t return the East Oregonian’s phone call by press time requesting a comment.
Contact Kathy Aney at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 541-966-0810.