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Italian Native Nelo Mori Lives “American Dream”
by Anthony Mori, Elko Daily Free Press
Italian native and longtime Nevada resident Nelo Mori has been honored by the Western States Ranch Rodeo Association with the inaugural Nelo Mori Heritage of Ranching Award and has also been selected as the Grand Marshal of the 2017 WSRRA Finals.
“We have honored him with the first Nelo Mori Heritage of Ranching Award. I have never met Nelo, but I heard he has an incredible story. I don’t know the Nevada guys real well, but Rick Masterjuan said that Nelo was the guy for the award. Everyone I have talked to said he is an amazing man and I’m looking forward to meeting him,” said WSRRA President Marc Page. “This will be our eighth year for the WSRRA National Finals.
We want to give back and make this thing bigger and better. We wanted to give the award to a pioneer and someone who blazed the way for the ranching industry.
The Nelo Mori Heritage of Ranching Award will be awarded annually.”
Mori, who is now 93 years old, came to the Unites States by way of Italy in 1938 at the age of 14, already an American citizen when he reached U.S. soil. Mori, along with his brother Pete, took a train from New York to Fernley. The brothers achieved their citizenship due to the fact their grandfather, Pete, had come to the U.S. in 1876, and their father, Sam, made the trip in 1903.
Nelo and his wife, Ida May, purchased the Mori Ranch in March of 1958 and moved to Jack Creek with sons Sam and Pete. Daughter Linda was born in Elko in 1961.
Nelo won the calf roping and the team roping of 1955 NCA/ICA rodeo in Wells and competed in the Silver State Stampede in 1960, entering in the team roping with partner Claude Barkdull.
“I won second in the calf roping in Reno and won second in the open cutting in Reno,” Nelo said.
Nelo and Ida May purchased another ranch in 1979, moving to Lovelock, operating the alfalfa fields and feedlot operations ever since.
Coupled with his numerous rodeo achievements, Nelo has also been honored in several facets of the ranching industry as well.
In 1993, he was elected to the Hall of Fame of the Soil Conservation Service and he served on the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association Board of Directors for 20 years, receiving the President’s Award in 1997. In November 2013, the Cattlemen’s Association presented Nelo with the 100,000-Mile Award for riding more than 100,000 miles in a saddle.
Along with sons Sam and Pete, Nelo qualified for the finals of the branding competition of the Elko County Fair for 14 years in a row – winning the event four times. Nelo’s final branding victory came in 1989 at age 65 – roping with sons Sam, Pete and son-in-law Wes Tews.
Three generations of the Mori family have won the branding contest, which was a truly unique competition – three rounds of six yearlings, branding 18 head of cattle with a hot iron. The final all-Mori team to win the contest consisted of Nelo’s son Pete, Pete’s son Michael and Sam’s sons Anthony and Quinn – besting the field in 2008.
“Growing up, Nelo was the man when I was younger and started roping in the branding contest,” said Mark Eldridge. “He was a really good roper and a great cowboy.”
All five of Nelo’s grandchildren have qualified for the National High School Finals Rodeo, the most recent qualification by Jes Tews, who won the Nevada team roping title in 2015. Quinn Mori won the national team roping championship in 2006, heeling for partner Haylee Turley. Anthony and Michael roped together at the national finals in 2001, and Andrea and Quinn competed in the 2003 national finals.
J.M. Capriola Co. has featured a model of a “Nelo Mori” saddle in its catalog, replicating a saddle he purchased in 1975.
In 2015, he was named the Grand Marshal of the Silver State Stampede.
“I have achieved the American dream, not because I am terribly rich or have tremendous amounts of cattle or land. I am rich because of my family. My sons, daughter, grandchildren and great grandchildren are really good cowboys, good ropers and upstanding citizens.” – Nelo Mori
Michael and Quinn Mori were on the WSRRA 2015 World Champion team. Matt Mori was on the 2010 WSRRA World Champion Team.
This award will be given every year at the Western States Ranch Rodeo Association National Finals Rodeo. For more information or to nominate someone please see www.wsrra.org.