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  • Valley cowboy’s legacy back in saddle

    first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 Gone were the pictures of Johny with some of his biggest supporters, like former President Ronald Reagan and former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley. The autographed photos were packed away with the plaques and other mementos of everything he had accomplished in his life. When Mike and Katherine Carpenter moved into the house across the street in 2002, the Heaven on Earth ranch had become the nonsectarian All Nations Church. Mike was not related to Johny; didn’t even know who he was until his wife, a horse trainer, told him about the old cowboy who used to run the ranch for disabled and disadvantaged kids across the street. She had bought and restored Johny’s last buggy before he got evicted from the place back in 1993, and, like many people, she tried to help Johny get back on his feet – maybe even find another Heaven on Earth. He never did, not like the old one. One of the last public appearances Johny made was in 1996 when, despite ill health, he put on his black cowboy hat, blue jeans, and cowboy boots to accept the Citizen of the Year award from the East Valley Coordinating Council. Then, he just faded away. Johny Carpenter always had a soft spot for a hard-luck story – even after he became one himself. The Western-movie stuntman never got a chance to die the way he wanted – with his boots on at the Lake View Terrace horse ranch and Western town he ran for more than 50 years for needy and physically disabled children. Instead, he died two years ago in a Burbank nursing home at 93, his legacy all but forgotten as a real-life cowboy who brought a little heaven down to earth for thousands of children in the San Fernando Valley – except by a handful of people who remembered him. The Heaven on Earth ranch that Johny ran on a shoestring was long gone by then. No longer were buses filled with disadvantaged and disabled children pulling up to the gates on Foothill Boulevard to give the kids their first chance to sit on a horse or take a ride in a real Western buggy. All for free. “The more I learned about Johny, the more fascinated I became with his life,” says Mike, a public affairs consultant who began doing some work for the Korean church across the street. “I was amazed at how many people didn’t know what was there before, that it had been a Wild West town for kids with disabilities run by this incredible man.” But Mike told Jin So Yoo, senior pastor at the church. “Bring it back,” Yoo told him. And that’s exactly what Mike, some friends, and a lot of old-time movie and TV character-actor cowboys are trying to do. In November 2003, the Korean church revived one of Johny’s favorite events for the kids, a Thanksgiving dinner. The church invited the entire neighborhood and every kid it could find who remembered Johny. They listened to Randy Horton, now 41, describe how it felt to be an 8-year-old boy with cerebral palsy coming to Heaven on Earth and being greeted at the gates by Johny. Randy was not supposed to be able to walk on his own, let alone ride a horse, but Johny wouldn’t let him quit. The old cowboy spent countless hours working on the kid’s balance, teaching him to stay in that saddle and ride. “He made me realize I could do anything I put my mind to,” Randy says today. “There were times my mother and I walked five miles together to get there. “If kids couldn’t get out of their wheelchairs, Johny would reach down with his strong arms and lift them into the covered wagon still in their chairs. “My wife, Kimberly, and I got married at his ranch in 1987,” Randy says. “I loved that man.” On Oct. 21, the Reel Cowboys – a group of old movie and TV Western character actors – will hold their annual Silver Spur Awards at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City. This year’s honorees are James Garner, Stella Stevens, Rhonda Fleming, Jack Palance, stuntman Roydon Clark, and a posthumous award to Audie Murphy. All big names who brought the Old West alive on movie and TV screens for generations. But, to me, the biggest star of the night will be Johny Carpenter. Proceeds from the event will be split between the Hollywood Stuntman’s Hall of Fame being built in Beatty, Nev., and the Johny Carpenter Horse Arena being planned by the New Heaven on Earth Ranch Foundation in Lake View Terrace. “We can’t duplicate what Johny did for thousands of kids. Nobody can,” Mike says. “But we can sure try to keep his legacy alive.” Dennis McCarthy’s column appears Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Dennis McCarthy, (818) 713-3749 [email protected] For information and advance reservations for the Reel Cowboys’ Silver Spur Awards, call (800) 510-5921. For information on the New Heaven on Earth Ranch Foundation, call Mike Carpenter at (818) 470-5235. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more