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HELENA— Longtime Helena newsman Bill Skidmore, who worked at the Independent Record for 38 years chronicling the city's events and people, has died. He was 64.

The Independent Record reports that Skidmore died Saturday after a two-year battle with cancer.

Skidmore started at the newspaper in 1971 after graduating with a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin. Known as "Skid" to friends, he eventually became an award-winning opinion page editor before leaving the paper in 2009.

"Skid was one of the truly best community journalists this city has known," said the newspaper's editor, John Doran. "Not only did the Independent Record lose an esteemed member of our family, but Helena, too, lost a trustworthy name that delivered to readers many significant stories and editorials over three decades."

Skidmore covered the 1973 raid and closure of "Big Dorothy" Baker's house of ill repute, urban renewal through the 1970s, battles concerning the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area, and a story about a man who spent 55 years in an institution after being improperly diagnosed as developmentally disabled.

Skidmore, who had a dry wit and a love of reading, was a quiet man who listened more than he talked, possibly because of a tendency to stutter. The family said his collection of books will be donated to a small Montana library.

Skidmore was also renowned for turning his dining room into a pool hall with a pool table where the dining table would have been.

"I find I use the pool table a lot more often," Skidmore said in a 2009 interview.

During the interview he also recalled his early days in the business when reporters smoked cigarettes at their desks while hammering out stories on typewriters.

Later in his career, he could often be found wandering in the Independent Record's parking lot smoking and thinking about his next story.

"He was a walking compendium of local lore and odd facts," said Leah Gilman, a longtime news editor at the newspaper.

Skidmore is survived by a daughter, Cindy Skidmore, a son Don Skidmore, and a granddaughter, Keegan Kier. The family plans an Irish wake in his honor.

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