LIBBY Lester Lewis (Les) Skramstad, 70, a longtime resident of the Kootenai Valley, died Sunday morning, Jan. 21, 2007, at his home in Libby following a long battle with mesothelioma. Despite the devastating physical affects of his illness, Les remained a tireless and outspoken advocate for those affected by the disease.
His funeral service will be Monday at 3:00 p.m. at the Libby Christian Church; a brief interment service will follow at the City of Libby Cemetery. Friends may call at the Nelson & Vial Funeral Home from 1 to 8 p.m. Sunday and until noon Monday. A potluck reception will follow at the Mint, 110 Mineral Ave., Libby. Les was born to Lewis and Rosie Skramstad at Velva, North Dakota on June 6, 1936. At the age of 18, he came west to Montana and settled in Libby in 1954. Shortly thereafter, he met the love of his life, 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 there 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 his time of recovery, his family encouraged him to again pursue his music and, during that time, he taught his kids to play and sing as well.
The greatest joy of his life was his family, especially Norita, his wife of 51 years; during that time, 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 asbestosis research and had traveled many miles and spent thousands of hours in advocacy for those suffering from asbestos-related diseases. Survivors include his wife, Norita; children, Laurel Porte of Great Falls; Brent (Julie) Skramstad, Gayla (Bob) Cody, Brady Skramstad and Sloan (Martin) Thompson, all of Havre; additional “kids,” Cliff McQueen, Donny Powell and John Beebe; brother, Wayne (Babe) Skramstad of Milton- Freewater, Ore.; and sisters, Myrna (Adrian) Boswell of Washington and Diane (Will) Walter of Texas; 14 grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; numerous nieces, nephews and cousins; and a host of life-long friends whose lives he touched. Memorials in his honor can be made to the Lincoln County Asbestos Victims Relief Organization, 245 Cedar Meadow Road, Libby, MT 59923. A potluck reception will follow at the Mint, 110 Mineral Ave., Libby.