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I just got word that Joe Schlesser, former owner of Artspace, has passed away. Though somewhat unorthodox, Joe was a man who had a great passion for culture in Billings. In the two years I worked for Joe, he turned the hole-in-the-wall coffee shop into a cultural mecca for many struggling to find uniqueness in Billings. He offered his walls to many local artist, open-mic poetry, and music. Many may even remember the one-acts, fish TV and even the belly dancing. He created a safe environment for many patrons to be themselves and talk about life, because I can guarantee it was not the great-tasting coffee - I used to make the coffee.

I also got to see beyond the hard exterior of Joe. He helped me through many tough decisions and choices in my life. He watched over me and would offer thoughtful advice and comfort when I had nowhere else to turn. I moved from Billings several years ago and never talked to him after my move. I never got to say thank you to Joe. May you be at peace. Thank you, Joe.

Andy Dompier

Vancouver, Wash.

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