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Billings artist remembers lost friend with grinning snowman sculpture

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BILLINGS -- If you ask artist Jason Jam, three elements are essential to building a snowman.

"The right amount of snow, the right weather and the time," Jam said.

But to make a snow sculpture, like the one located at the corner of Yellowstone Avenue and 4th Street West in Billings, it takes a vision.

This year, Jam found his inspiration in the loss of a close friend.

"I got the news Tuesday that a dear friend of mine, Thad, he passed away on Jan. 1,” said Jam. “So that whole week I was thinking about him and really missing him. I was given that day Saturday with beautiful weather and the time off and I joked that Thad had put in a special request or something like that (with God).”

Thad Eckenroad, who grew up in Montana, died in Ohio after an extended illness.

His obituary describes Thad as a talented musician and avid outdoorsman with a “loving personality.”

With its toothy grin, big ears and gawky nose, Jam’s snowman may not resemble Thad's physical appearance, but Jam said it captures his spirit perfectly.

"It makes me laugh every time I see it and that's exactly what Thad did. He made me laugh all the time,” said Jam. “He was a very funny person. So yeah, it looks exactly like him."

Jam spent four hours carving out his Thad-inspired cranium, but once the winter weather leaves, so too will this physical reminder of a friend gone too soon.

"Everyone asks me, ‘why do you spend so much time making something that doesn't last?’ Well nothing lasts, and my friend Thad is a perfect example of how things aren't forever, and we shouldn't take for granted all the time we have,” said Jam. “And if you have a good snow day, create something meaningful in this life because you're only going to get so many chances."

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