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SUNDANCE, Wyo. (AP) - Marlene Simons, who represented Crook County in the Wyoming House for more than two decades, died Sunday from lung cancer. She was 70.

Simons, R-Beulah, was elected to the House in 1978 for the first of 12 terms. She was the first Republican woman to chair the agriculture committee and the first to serve on the appropriations committee. She also was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as vice chairwoman of the National Public Lands Advisory Council in the 1980s.

Simons was a partner in her husband's hunting business and took great pride in shooting an antelope that made the Boone and Crockett Club listings. Simons was an ardent supporter of the right to bear arms and was presented with a Defender of Freedom Award by the National Rifle Association.

"For most of her life and until her very last days, Marlene was a tireless advocate for Wyoming agriculture and public spaces," Gov. Dave Freudenthal said in a news release. "Whether it was over a 20-year legislative career or over the dinner table, she never missed a chance to do what she thought was right - and to make sure other folks knew what that was.

"Her special brand of warmth and forthrightness, often a breath of fresh air, will long be missed. Nancy and I offer our sincere condolences to her many constituents, friends and family."

She was born Marlene Juanita Mills on July 1, 1935, in Deadwood, S.D. Her family moved to Sundance in 1942, and she married Franklin E. Simons when she was 16 years old. The couple lived the rest of their lives on a ranch west of Beulah.

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Simons is survived by daughter Linda Johnson of Belle Fourche, S.D., son Sully Simons of Beulah, stepson Franklin G. Simons of Aurora, Colo., plus seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

A memorial service was scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday at the old high school gymnasium in Sundance.

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