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Clyde Noel: Fun-loving 'man on the street' was avid local volunteer

Clyde Noel loved telling a good story and sharing a conspiratorial laugh. The retired sporting-goods salesman had a passion for people, a devotion he parlayed into a second career as a volunteer, full-time roving reporter for the Town Crier.

Mr. Noel, an energetic, colorful personality who donated his time and money to numerous local nonprofit groups, died June 21 after a short illness. He was 96.

A longtime Los Altos Hills resident, Mr. Noel wrote for the Town Crier in the 1990s and 2000s in a variety of capacities, from op-ed columnist (“A Side of Clyde”) to nuts-and-bolts reporter, covering the El Camino Hospital District and Foothill-De Anza Community College District, among his regular beats. A savvy stock market investor, he used his expertise to provide valuable insights as a Town Crier business writer and columnist.

Clyde Noel
Clyde Noel

“For a good 15 years, Clyde Noel was in the paper everywhere you looked,” said Town Crier Editor-in-Chief Bruce Barton. “In addition to being a valued editorial contributor, he was a fun guy to have around.”

One of his other main staples was conducting the paper’s weekly “Sidewalk Interview” feature, where his man on the street persona posed quirky questions to passersby. His questions included “How often do you look in the mirror?” and “Would you rather have true love or win the $564 million Powerball jackpot?”

The Town Crier honored Mr. Noel for his years of contributions by naming him the Los Altan of the Year for 2015. Predictably, his acceptance speech featured a series of jokes. Pondering old age, he said: “Just grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked and the good fortune to remember those I do like. And good eyesight to tell the difference.”

Varied volunteering

Mr. Noel’s volunteer work extended far beyond the Town Crier. He served on boards and offered financial support to many local nonprofit organizations, including Community Services Agency, the Community Health Awareness Council (CHAC), the Los Altos History Museum and Los Altos Community Foundation. He was a longtime member of the Rotary Club of Los Altos.

Monique Kane, CHAC’s former executive director, fondly recalled Mr. Noel’s contributions during his three to four years of service on the board of the behavioral health organization.

“He was often the voice of reason,” she said. “He had a lot of common sense and he always spoke his mind. And he always gave generously to CHAC.”

For a time, Mr. Noel was also active on the local political scene. A resident of Cupertino in the 1960s, Mr. Noel was elected to the city council and served two terms as mayor. He continued his involvement in local government after moving to Los Altos Hills in 1973. He served on the town’s Planning Commission in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Early years

Blessed with seemingly boundless energy, Mr. Noel was always on the move.

He was born and raised on a farm in Zieglerville, Pa., but rural life was not for him. He joined the U.S. Navy at age 17, prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into World War II. When war broke out, he served as a hospital corpsman on a destroyer, the USS Pennsylvania. He later transferred to Philadelphia, where he met the love of his life, Lois.

“I just met the craziest guy last night,” Lois remembers saying.

Her sister Jan’s date had brought along his friend, Clyde. The four went roller skating. Somehow, Mr. Noel ended up falling asleep on Lois’ kitchen table.

“Two days later, he called me and asked me on a date,” Lois recalled.

Dates with dinner and jitterbug dancing followed. The two tied the knot in 1944 – they were married 74 1/2 years.

Interviewed in 2015, Mr. Noel called his marriage to Lois one of his life’s greatest achievements.

After the war, Mr. Noel went back to school on the G.I. Bill. He earned a bachelor’s degree in public administration, then a master’s degree in marketing and finance from New York University. A classmate who knew the stock market suggested that Mr. Noel invest in Standard Oil. He did. That investment paid off as Standard became ExxonMobil. Before long, Mr. Noel became expert at playing the market.

After college, Mr. Noel first worked in the rubber industry, then found success in sporting goods. He was among the first to introduce aluminum bats to consumers on the West Coast.

Family life

Along the way, he and Lois raised a family. They had two children, Len and Candie. The family moved from the East Coast to Texas and finally the Bay Area.

Len recalled family vacations that extensively covered all of the western states – as a traveling sporting-goods salesman, Mr. Noel would make calls and stops en route.

“Clyde was a person who did not sit for too long – he had to keep busy,” Lois said.

“I remember always going places with him,” Candie reminisced. “We made lots of trips to the library, both of us checking out books to read. … When he discovered a love for race cars, we would go to drag races and NASCAR events. He was always adventurous, inquisitive, and loved to learn. He never knew a stranger and would talk with anyone. He never had a bad word to say about any person.”

Len appreciated his father’s outlook on life.

“You take what you do seriously, but you don’t take yourself seriously,” he said.

Mr. Noel is survived by wife Lois, son Len, daughter Candie, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. A celebration of life is planned for next month.

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