Joe Sample, long-time Billings resident and founder of the Montana Television Network, died last week at the age of 99. Sample meant a lot to television stations across the Treasure State, but that was a small part of his accomplishments.
In front of the KTVQ building in Billings, Sample brought a sculpture of the 7th Cavalry done by the late Lyndon Pomeroy. It shows Sample's passion for art and history.
He also left some paintings at the KTVQ building that show his passion for art and jazz.
His daughter-in-law Barbara called him an extraordinary man with eclectic interests; she recently showed off some of her father-in-law's favorite art that he and his wife Miriam loved to share with family and friends.
"Every year, Joe would have a Christmas party,” Barbara said. “Miriam would do all the work and you know there were jazz artists there. And it was a celebration of what he loved.”
Barbara was married to Michael Sample, Joe's son, who was stabbed to death in downtown Billings almost a decade ago. She wanted to share this story because she says it illustrates Joe's compassion and kindness.
“Well, he also was feeling pain,” Barbara said. “It was harder for him I think than I could have imagined because I had my own grief. And yet he reached out in a very personal and supportive way.”
Joe Sample moved to Billings in 1954 and became a minority stockholder and president of KOOK-TV. He later established MTN.
“He saw that there was TV in Chicago and those places,” Barbara said. “And so he decided he could do it. And he did.”
When KOOK changed its call letters to KTVQ, he came up with the idea of Q2.
“KTVQ is mouthful,” Barbara said. “Q2 would be Joe saying, ‘let's just do that.’"
MTN represents just one of Joe’s accomplishments.
He led or donated to many causes throughout Billings and Montana.
“He was very involved in the (Billings Public) Library,” Barbara said. “He got a whole bunch of his friends together and they bought the Northern Hotel.”
And she says Joe used to enjoy joking and having fun.
“He loved to kind of tease,” Barbara said. “It was never hurtful.”
And Barbara talked about one of the great lessons from Joe, who never wanted his name on any building.
“We have an obligation to be generous, as generous as we possibly can,” Barbara said about what Joe said to the family. “And we need to keep our names to ourselves. So I think that's a wonderful gift that he taught not just to his family, his kids, but all the grandkids."