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Noted cartoonist Stan Lynde dies

Stan Lynde, the creator of the Western comic strips ‘Rick O’Shay’ and ‘Latigo,’ reflects on his journey as a well-known cartoonist at the Montana Historical Society in this November 2012 file photo. Lynde died Tuesday in Helena of cancer.

HELENA — Acclaimed Montana cartoonist and Western writer Myron Stanford “Stan” Lynde died Tuesday in Helena of cancer. He was 81.

Lynde was well-known around the world for his famous Montana-based cartoon “Rick O’Shay,” which began in 1958 and ran for 20 years, with an average daily readership of 15 million.

“Rick O’Shay” was followed by the comic strip “Latigo,” which ran from 1979 to 1983.

Lynde and his wife Lynda had just retired to Cuenca, Ecuador, earlier this year. At the time of his departure from Helena, he called the move the first chapter of his brand new book.

Born Sept. 23, 1931, in Billings, during the heart of the Great Depression, Lynde grew up on an isolated sheep ranch near Lodge Grass. It was there he took up drawing and recalled with delight, during an IR interview, receiving the Sunday Billings Gazette and Denver Post that arrived with full pages of comics. He later had the “epiphany” of learning that people were paid to create these magical stories. A born storyteller, Lynde was descended from a line of storytellers.

The cowboys and people of Lodge Grass were models for his cartoon

characters — Rick O’Shay, Hipshot, Gaye Abandon and other folks in his imaginary town of Conniption.

They would also inspire his eight Merlin Fanshaw Western novels and the historical novel, “Vigilante Moon.”

After studying journalism and art at the University of Montana, Lynde joined the Navy for four years during the Korean War. Shortly after returning to Montana and a short stint as a journalist in Colorado, he headed to the Big Apple with $300 in his pocket, determined to see if he could make it as a cartoonist.

He recalled in an IR interview living on automat food, popcorn and a generous friend who regularly invited him to dinner. He finally began to make it in 1958 with the success of “Rick O’Shay,” which was eventually picked up by 100 newspapers across the country.

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“Rick O’Shay and Hipshot were my heroes when I was growing up in Chicago,” recalled Bruce Whittenberg, director of the Montana Historical Society.

“Stan was an incredible creative and soft-spoken man,” Whittenberg said. “You couldn’t help but respect him. He was such a class act.”

When Lynde grew ill in Ecuador, he drew comparisons in his blog between his life and a series of paintings by his hero Charlie Russell: “Just a Little Sunshine,” “Just a Little Rain,” “Just a Little Pleasure” and “Just a Little Pain.”

It “is a metaphor for everyone’s life journey,” Lynde wrote. “Mine has been a very good journey indeed. May yours contain an abundance of sunshine and pleasure, and only such rain and pain as you may need to provide you with the perfect, balanced life … Hasta luego!”

A memorial service will be held at the Spring Meadow Lake Pavilion on Sept. 6 at 3 p.m. Burial will be in Mountview Cemetery in Billings.

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