Noel Sanderson built roads. He built them all over Wyoming. "If you're driving on it, I probably helped build it," he was known to say.
NOEL FRANK SANDERSON was born in Riverton, Wyoming on January 16, 1940 - on the coldest day of the year. He was the second of five children of Jay Frank and Lavina Catherine (Stevens) Sanderson of Morton, Wyoming. His parents sold a horse - "and a good horse too!" - to pay the doctor and hospital bills.
Noel attended elementary schools in Morton, Mills, and Casper, in Wyoming, and in Seymour, Texas. He graduated in a class of nine at Morton School, near Kinnear in Fremont County, in May 1958, being a member of the original class in 1946. He was active in sports (lettering in football, basketball and track) and excelled in Vocational Agriculture and held offices in FFA (Future Farmers of America), including chapter president, and was class president in his Senior year. During his high school years, he worked for his Uncle Norval Stevens, whose place was near the power plant on Morton Lake, and for Howard McClurg, who owned the old Kelly place at Morton. Fresh out of high school, Noel went to work for the Ferris-Aultman ranch in Larimer County in northern Colorado.
Noel's first road construction job was with Forgey Bros. Construction, working on a section of new highway on U.S. 26 in Fremont County that bypassed Diversion Dam and crossed the Wind River with a new bridge a few miles downstream from the dam. His welding ability - learned in high school - led to a year-round job and a long association with Russ Forgey, both on the job and off. He became a finish blade operator - a job he loved - and he worked in that capacity for various contractors over the decades until he finally retired at age seventy-five. He helped to build nearly every highway in the state, including sections of interstate I-80. He built the roadbed for a long section of railroad tracks carrying coal from Gillette and he helped build highways in neighboring South Dakota, Nebraska and Colorado, as well. One of his last projects was helping to build the "Loop Road" in Sinks Canyon, near Lander. It is a fine piece of work.
Noel married Martha Lynne "Lynne" French of Robinson, Illinois, and Worland, Wyoming, on July 23, 1961. They had two children - Allen and Diane. They lived first in Jackson and Pinedale, where Noel's road jobs took them; then after a time the family settled in Mills, where Noel was active with the volunteer fire department, serving as fire chief for several years, and Lynne was active in the auxiliary. Around 1989, they moved from Mills to east Casper. Lynne was a tremendously good cook and a wonderful helpmate, always maintaining their home during Noel's seasonal absences to his jobs around the state. Sadly, in May 2010, she lost her battle with heart disease.
Noel became a good grill master and an expert raiser of tomatoes, filling the house in late winter with tiny pots of seedlings. He built trailers for hauling stuff and crafted cute crows from shovel blades. He was a great fan of NASCAR racing and he loved watching the RFD television network.
In recent years, Noel enjoyed the companionship of Iris Kusma of Gillette and they had fun traveling together, working jigsaw puzzles and attending the Cowboy Church in Gillette. Iris passed away in late September 2021.
Noel passed away at the Banner Wyoming Medical Center in Casper on June 22, 2023, surrounded by his family. He was 83 years of age. He was preceded in death by his grandparents, Roy and Mollie Stevens and Arthur and Lillie Sanderson, all of Fremont County; by three uncles and two aunts; by his parents, Jay and Lavina; by his mother and father-in-law, Fran and Kenneth "Frenchie" French of Illinois and Wyoming; by Lynne, his wife of nearly fifty years; by a sister, Gail Hollingsworth, of Colorado; by brother-in-law Don Bleak and nephew Roy Bleak, of Lusk; and by his dear friend Iris. Noel is survived by his son Allen and his daughter Diane and son-in-law Robert Mintle, all of Casper; by three sisters, Carol Underwood of Fort Worth, Texas, and Donna Bleak and Kathy Sanderson, of Lander; brother-in-law Stan Underwood of Fort Worth; and by several nieces and nephews and great-nieces and great-nephews, including his namesakes Daniel Noel and Brynli Noel Bleak.
Noel made his home at Mountain Plaza Assisted Living Center in west Casper for ten months before his death.
At Noel’s request, no services will be held. His ashes will be interred next to Lynne in Highland Cemetery, in Casper with a portion to be scattered on Casper Mountain.
Should anyone who knew Noel wish to do so, donations in his name to the Casper Humane Society would be appreciated. Donations can be made through their website or mailed to 849 East E Street, Casper, WY 82601.