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JOLIET - On Feb. 1, 2003, Richard Thomas Yarborough passed to the life beyond while vacationing with his companion Grace Willems in Truth Or Consequences, N.M.

Tom, as he was called by family and friends, moved to Montana in the early 90's and quickly adopted it as his home. His exacting craftsmanship can be seen in many remodeled homes and apartments in Carbon and Yellowstone counties.

Born in North Carolina, July 4, 1945, Yarborough grew up in an area known as the Cotton Mill Hill in Troy, N.C. He joined the U.S. Army July 14, 1963, and was stationed in Germany near his cousin Ralph Hogan. Within his unit, he achieved expert designation for his skill with firearms and earned a good conduct medal. He was released from active duty June 1, 1966, and served in the Army reserve until May 31, 1969, when he was honorably discharged.

Shortly after returning to the United States, he attended the University of Florida and earned a bachelor's degree in broadcasting and minors in speech and history.

Yarborough's life spanned a variety of careers. After graduation, he worked at Piedmont Airlines (later called U.S. Air) as an apprentice mechanic until he landed a job as a DJ at Davidson County Broadcasting in Lexington, North Carolina. He then moved on to work for the Davidson County Government and later created his own production company.

In Montana, he worked on a potato farm near Joliet and started his own handyman business.

One of Yarborough's favorite quotes stated: "The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof (author unknown)."

Thus defined, Yarborough's surviving family includes companion Grace Willems of Billings; Willems' daughter Martina Willems-Pfarr and son-in-law Paul A. Pfarr II of Everett, Wash.; Willems' son and daughter-in-law Jarrod and Kim Willems and their children of Billings; longtime friend Helene Gruel and her companion Linda Remmick of Joliet; Gruel's son and daughter-in-law Jason and Angela Gruel and their children of Joliet. Yarborough's North Carolina relatives include cousins Ralph Hogan and his wife Marlene, and Carey Bateman and his wife Nancy, and aunts Lola Hogan and Martha Brown.

Memorial services to be held Saturday, May 31, by invitation only.

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