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Walter “Boots” Dunn, 85, dies
Wednesday, February 03, 2016 - from the USTA Communications Department

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Columbus, OH --- Walter L. “Boots” Dunn, 85, a horseman since the 1940s and USTA Director since 1987, died Feb. 3, 2016.

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Walter "Boots" Dunn died Feb. 3, 2015.

Mr. Dunn was president of W.L. Dunn Construction Company of Cochranton, Pa., founded by his late father, Wilbur “Cubby” Dunn. He trained and drove his own horses, maintaining his amateur status and competing across eight different decades. He is believed to be the leading amateur driver of all time, with 1,152 wins to his credit. He was a five-time national leader in UDR for his category of starts.

Mr. Dunn learned to train and drive from his late father, who started the family construction business in 1919, building bridges and roads and operating a gravel plant, with a team of oxen and later horses. The younger Dunn had his own equine business as a child, charging local kids a nickel for a ride on his pony.

Cubby bought a race horse in 1946, and father and son hit the road to compete, most frequently in neighboring Ohio at Northfield Park, Painesville Raceway and Grandview Raceway. They largely competed at The Meadows when that track opened in the 1960s, as well as the Pennsylvania Fair Circuit.

With the help of his daughter, Lisa, he operated a private training center in Cochranton with two tracks and a farm for his racehorses, broodmares and young horses.

Over the years Mr. Dunn raced many good horses, almost all of them homebreds, among them the top-class Meadows pacer Justassuming during the late 1970s; Dark Magic 3,1:57.3f ($193,570), a winner of 36 races; Yourworstnightmare 3,1:56.3f ($154,339), a winner of 19 of 34 races at ages two and three, who went on to a successful career in Europe; and Classicality 1:52.4f ($299,237), who took his mark last year at Pocono while trained by Mr. Dunn's daughter Lisa.

Mr. Dunn was active in leadership of the Crawford County Fair Board and served as their speed superintendent and race secretary. He was a member of the 4H Horse and Pony Hall of Fame and the Meadville Area Sports Committee Hall of Fame.

Mr. Dunn shared a 2003 award with his late wife, Donna, from the Pennsylvania Fair Harness Horsemen’s Association for their support of the fair program. In 2016 that group awarded the inaugural Walter “Boots” Dunn Rising Star Award, which goes to an up-and-coming Pennsylvania horseman, to Brady Brown.

"Boots was an individual unlike any other," said USTA President Phil Langley. "He loved harness racing and he loved the fairs.

"I last saw him on Jan. 23 at the USTA banquet in Bedford, Pa. He was surrounded by a lot of friends and relatives and he was in good spirits. He was tough. We’re going to miss him."

Mr. Dunn is survived by his daughters, Debbie Dunn Sheatz (Ike), Lisa Dunn, Kathy Dunn Harvey (Leo) and Leslie Dunn Zendt (Bill); grandchildren, Cortney Sheatz, Wade Sheatz, Alex Sheatz, Shawn Harvey, Ryan Harvey, Wyatt Adams and Garrett Adams; and great-granddaughter, Sasha Sheatz. He was preceded in death by his parents, Iris and Wilbur; and a daughter, Dinah.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Standardbred Retirement Foundation ( or the Hospice of Crawford County, 464 Pine St., Meadville, PA 16335.

Visitation will be on Friday (Feb. 5) and Saturday (Feb. 6) from 2-7 p.m. at the Dickson Funeral Home in Cochranton, Pa. The funeral service will be on Sunday (Feb. 7) at the Methodist Church in Cochranton.

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