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Les Skramstad

| January 25, 2007 11:00 PM

Lester Lewis "Les" Skramstad, 70, a longtime resident of the Kootenai Valley, died Sunday, Jan. 21, 2007, at his home in Libby following a long battle with mesothelioma.

Les was born June 6, 1936, in Velva, N.D., to Lewis and Rosie Skramsta. At 18, he came to Montana, settling in Libby in 1954.

Shortly thereafter, he met the love of his life, the former Norita Gardiner. They were married Dec. 10, 1955.

A true, honest and soft-hearted gentleman who always wanted to be a cowboy, Les had a very strong passion for country music which he passed on to his children and grandchildren. In 1956, he went to Kalispell to help out a friend and played one of the first bass guitars in the valley - a guitar which he still referred to as "Lady." For the next 40 years, Les continued playing professionally throughout the area as well as Alaska and Canada.

In 1972, Les suffered a physical injury in an accident while working as a mechanic at a local garage. During recovery, his family encouraged him to again pursue music, and he also taught his children to play and sing.

His greatest joy was family, especially Norita. They not only raised a family of five but took in, cared for and enjoyed any of their kids' friends who wanted to be a part of their family. One of those, Cliff McQueen, a mechanic serving with civilian forces in Iraq, stays in regular touch with the family.

A notorious collector of "stuff," Les had an affinity for rummage sales and second-hand stores. He also had been an avid snowcatter.

In recent years, even while suffering from the debilitating effects of mesothelioma, he and his wife along with lifelong friend Gayla Benefield dedicated much time to asbestos research and had traveled many miles and spent thousands of hours in advocacy for those suffering from asbestos-related diseases. Despite the devastating physical affects of his illness, Les remained a tireless and outspoken advocate for those affected by the disease.

He is survived by his wife; his children Laurel Porte of Great Falls, and Brent Skramstad and his wife, Julie, Gayla Cody and her husband, Bob, Brady Skramstad, and Sloan Thompson and her husband, Martin, all of Havre; additional "kids" Cliff McQueen, Donny Powell and John Beebe; a brother, Wayne Skramstad and his wife, Babe, of Milton-Freewater, Ore.; sisters Myrna Boswell and her husband, Adrian, of Washington and Diane Walter and her husband, Will of Texas; 14 grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; numerous nieces, nephews and cousins; and a host of lifelong friends whose lives have been touched by Les.

Funeral services will be held at 3 p.m. Monday, Jan. 29, at Libby Christian Church. An interment service will follow at the City of Libby Cemetery. A potluck reception will follow at the Mint, 110 Mineral Ave., Libby.

Friends may call at the Nelson & Vial Funeral Home from 1 to 8 p.m. Sunday and 8 a.m. to noon Monday.

Memorials may be made to Lincoln County Asbestos Victims Relief Organization, 245 Cedar Meadow Road, Libby, MT 59923.