On Monday, Dec. 28, 2020, four hours short of his 92nd birthday, Louis William “Bill” Noel passed away because of natural causes at Royal Plaza Care Facility.
Bill was born to Clara Noel (Crewdson) and Leo Noel on Dec. 29, 1928, in Yakima. One of five siblings, Bill grew up during the time our country was coming out of the Great Depression, and money and work were scarce. He left school at the age of 16 to help provide for the family. He often talked about his first job with Northwest Equipment in Spokane, where he participated in unloading the first McCullough chain saws in the Pacific Northwest. It was also there that he learned to drive. After exaggerating his driving skills to his boss, he was sent on a delivery. It was trial by fire, as the delivery car had a bad clutch, soft brakes and was unfortunately located in the middle of Spokane traffic. After a number of close calls, the 16-year-old Bill eventually lived up to his premature driving claims.
Eventually, Bill was moved into outside sales and was given a route that included Lewiston and Clarkston. It was during one of his deliveries to the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley that he met Agnes Carpenter at a dance. “She’s was platinum blonde when I first met her,” he would later brag to their grandchildren. The two were married Aug. 30, 1951. Bill and Agnes enjoyed traveling across the Pacific Northwest, as well as the East Coast, having many adventures in the process. Some of his favorite memories were traveling with her while searching for antiques and covered bridges. Bill’s commitment and devotion to Agnes was evident even through his final days.
The same year Bill and Agnes were married, he was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he was trained as a tank mechanic in Fort Hood, Texas. He was a member of the First Armored Division in Germany as part of the peacekeeping forces during the reconstruction period following WWII. Upon being honorably discharged in 1954, he returned to the area and tried his hand at various jobs before being hired at Hahn Supply. He left Hahn’s in 1961 to work for Seabrook Farms (later known as Twin City Foods). In 1964, he was offered a position with Hahn’s Supply again, this time as a purchasing agent. He was later promoted to assistant manager in charge of sales.
Over the years, Bill and Agnes developed a hobby that turned into a passion. While attending local auctions, they quickly became well-versed in the antique business. As their collection of antiques grew, so did Bill’s desire to go into business on his own. In 1973, he decided to take a giant leap in his career and pursue a dream. Bill, along with his good friend, Clint Johnson, attended the Western College of Auctioneering school in Bozeman, Mont. They both graduated at the top of their class.
By 1977, Bill and Agnes had started, built and managed the company Auction West. The business became successful enough that Bill was able to resign from Hahn’s Supply and run Auction West full time. He even managed to negotiate and hold the contract to auction the surplus for the Idaho Transportation Department during the 1990s. It was an occupation that he was well suited for. He was a man that ran a tight ship and still maintained the respect and friendship of his crew and a loyal group of patrons who became part of an extended family. In 1991, Bill semi-retired and handed off the day-to-day operations to his son, Michael, and daughter-in-law, Shirley. Even in retirement, both Bill and Agnes remained a vital part of Auction West. George Bernard Shaw is quoted as saying, “Happy is the man who can make a living by his hobby.” Bill took this philosophy to heart and became one of those rare individuals that was able to do just that. Auctioneering made him a happy man.
Some may be surprised to learn Bill was an accomplished wood carver. What started out as a necessity in making repairs to damaged antiques, developed into an artistic outlet. He was fond of carving and he and Agnes painted the whimsical characters and animals out of basswood. Agnes enjoyed incorporating his carvings into her holiday displays. This artistic talent extended into antique repair and served him well as he performed china and glass repairs professionally for people all over the world.
He was a man of many talents and interests, a man who leaves a legacy to be admired. He will be greatly missed.
Bill was preceded in death by his parents, Leo and Clara Noel; siblings Gerald, Frank, Richard and Emily; and daughter Susan Benscoter (Noel).
Survivors include his wife of 69 years, Agnes Noel; son Michael Noel; daughter-in-law Shirley Noel; grandchildren Christopher Noel, Elizabeth Aldrich (husband Ryan Aldrich), and Kelsey Benscoter; great-grandchildren Rj and Jamison Aldrich.
A graveside service will be held at 10 a.m. Jan. 18 at Normal Hill Cemetery. The family requests any donations be made to The Wounded Warriors Foundation, P.O. Box 758516, Topeka, KS 66675-8516.