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Lynn Underwood Ballinger had an encyclopedic knowledge of movies, TV and popular culture, and she excelled in entertainment trivia competitions.

"She wasn't good at all the categories, but the pop culture category she was real strong in — some of the music, and a lot of the actors and actresses and TV shows," said her husband, Steve Ballinger of Plymouth.

Underwood worked at the Star Tribune for 40 years, most of that time as a reporter, writing for the Home & Garden section in recent years. She died of cancer Sept. 10 at age 65.

"She would have made a really good critic," said longtime co-worker Kim Palmer. "She loved dissecting artistic choices."

Ballinger grew up in north Minneapolis and attended Patrick Henry High School. She and her twin sister, Lori Underwood, an equally avid film fan, both held jobs at downtown Minneapolis movie theaters — Lynn at the Skyway and Lori at the World. (Both theaters are now closed.)

"We saw so many movies free — she'd let me in at the Skyway and I'd let her in at the World," Lori said.

The twins attended North Hennepin Community College, then transferred to the University of Minnesota, where Underwood entered journalism school.

"She and I were always very interested in newspapers and keeping up with things," said Lori, who majored in English.

In 1980, Underwood went to work at the Star Tribune. Initially a news assistant, she became a reporter.

Underwood had "a tremendous work ethic," said Palmer, who sat next to her and also wrote for the Home & Garden section before retiring. Underwood would often stay late to polish her stories.

"She never lost her zest and her enthusiasm for her job," Palmer said. "She had really good interviewing skills — a warm, engaging manner that put people at ease and made them comfortable opening up to her."

Lynn and Steve, who met at the community college, married in 1984. Underwood used her husband's last name, Ballinger, in her private life but kept Underwood as her byline. Their son, Brandon, was born in 1998.

The couple bought a house 30 years ago in Plymouth, where Underwood enjoyed gardening.

"It was a model home when we moved in and didn't have much landscaping, so we had to develop most of the landscaping," Ballinger said.

The couple liked to go to breweries, particularly Utepils Brewing in Minneapolis, where they often attended the weekly "Trivia Mafia" competitions.

Lynn and Lori remained close "because we had such similar interests," Lori said. They loved old movies, festivals and art fairs, albums with musical soundtracks and awards shows.

Lori wound up working in downtown Minneapolis in a building next to the Star Tribune's headquarters.

"Lynn and I, toward the end there, would be going to lunch together, walking the skyways together," Lori said.

Underwood's glioblastoma, an aggressive form of cancer in the brain, was diagnosed a couple of years ago, when "one day she was trying to type a story and it all came out gibberish," Lori said.

"Her illness ended her career abruptly, much sooner than she would have liked," Palmer said. "She genuinely mourned her career, and would talk a lot about how much she missed it."

In addition to her husband, son and twin, survivors include her mother, Elaine Underwood, brother Gary, and sisters Karen Pettygrove and Jean LeBahn. A celebration of life is set for 1 to 5 p.m. Nov. 5 in the Captain's Room of the Heritage Center, 6155 Earle Brown Dr., in Brooklyn Center.