Altoona Community Gathers to Remember Mayor Skip Conkling and Others Affected by Cancer

ALTOONA, Iowa  --  Skip Conkling, the mayor of Altoona, lost his battle with cancer on Saturday.

On the same day, the City of Altoona hosted a Relay for Life event to celebrate those affected by the disease.

"Today we are here honoring people that have passed on, that are still here with us, and that are fighting the battle, and this beautiful establishment Skip helped create," said Belinda Reinhart, Conkling's long-time friend.

Reinhart said the Relay for Life will help the community cope with the loss of its mayor.

"With Skip passing today, the first thing that came to my mind is we're going to have a moment of silence today in memory of Skip Conkling, our mayor of Altoona. He was a great man, he did great things for this town," she said.

Residents also say Conkling was a friend who helped survivors fight their battles with cancer, but never asked for any help from the community while fighting his own.

"Skip was a very, kind of a silent man about it, because he didn't let people know that he was ill and suffering, and so I'm sure it was a really big shock to the community today," said Reinhart.

"God bless you, Skip, and all the work you have done for this community all these years, and while it will be hard to carry on with out you, we will find a way to carry on and live out in his honor," said Altoona resident Kevin Brehm.

Conkling was Mayor of Altoona for six years and previously served on the city council for over 16 years.

"For his family, our our hearts and our minds go out for his family, and all the staff in Altoona and the city as a whole."

The community came together to raise awareness for cancer, but will also have to work to find someone to take over the position.

"We've got 60 days to figure it out, and the council, you know, we've discussed different options, but we have many options, and so right now we're going to sit back and take these 60 days and figure out what we do moving forward," said council member Dean O'Conner.

While there is a set number of days left to name a new mayor, Conkling's lifetime of service will never be forgotten.

"We love you, Skip. You're going to be very, very, very greatly missed."

At the community's luminaria ceremony, lanterns were set out to honor those who lost their lives to cancer, including a lantern to remember Conkling.