He was the voice of Columbia Falls — the effervescent personality behind every parade and event in Columbia Falls for decades.
So it is with great sadness that we report the death of Karl Skindingsrude .
Skindingsrude died from natural causes Jan. 5. He was 62, his daughters Keshia Fisher and Karly Skindingsrude told the Hungry Horse News.
Skindingrude grew up in Whitewater, Wisconsin, the son of a funeral home director. He loaded up his gold GMC pickup in 1981 and headed West at the age of 24. He was thinking of stopping in Polson, but kept going until he got to Columbia Falls.
The next day, he got a job at the NAPA auto parts store in Whitefish and he never left the auto parts business. Skindingsrude and partner Jeff Henning bought the NAPA store in Columbia Falls in 1992 and were in business together until 2013, when Henning bought Skindingsrude out and later sold the store.
Skindingsrude was the ultimate people person. He kept track of all of the store’s major customers.
“He delivered birthday cakes (to them),” Henning fondly recalled. “We bought hundreds of birthday cakes for our customers over the years.”
Skindingsrude kept them all written down in a planner.
“He called it my brain,” Keshia said.
The cakes also came with a joke.
“It doesn’t matter how old you are, you just want to keep them (birthdays) coming,” he’d quip, his daughters recalled.
Henning said Skindingsrude was a great business partner. If they disagreed on a particular decision, they settled it with the flip of a coin. That was it. No argument. Skindingsrude was a tireless promoter of the Columbia Falls and the area, serving on a host of committees over the years to drum up promotions for the town. He was active in the Chamber of Commerce and always wanted the town to prosper. He was a DJ for hundreds of local weddings over the years through his side business, Special K Productions.
But he was best known for emceeing the town’s parades and events for decades, always wearing a bright Hawaiian shirt, a goofy hat and sunglasses, no matter what the weather was.
“He was all about the small town and its people,” Henning said. He last emceed the Heritage Days parade in 2019.
A celebration of Skingdingsrude’s life will be held at Columbia Falls High School on Sunday, Jan. 26 at 1 p.m.