Noel Adams Lesley
August 20, 2010
Noel Adams Lesley passed away from complications due to cancer late Sunday morning, Aug. 15, 2010, at his home in Ashland, Ore., surrounded by his loving family and his devoted dogs. He was 71.
Noel was a warrior, battling Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia, a rare and often fatal lymphoma, for 21 years. Right from day one, from his initial diagnosis in 1989, he refused to give into the disease, to the point of never wanting to speak about himself, his health, his treatments or his prognosis.
He kept right on working and living. He never, ever gave up, going to great lengths to make meaningful memories for himself and his family and friends, to squeeze every last ounce of passion out of life. On July 12, 2006, he underwent a bone marrow transplant at OHSU, and every year after that, on the anniversary of the procedure, he celebrated his new “birthday” with joyous parties.
A month to the day before he passed away, Noel took his son Jim and grandson Tanner, 13, on a three-day fishing trip to the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. For years, he’d dreamed of the three of them taking that trip, and it surpassed all expectations, resulting in their reeling in 11 exquisite king salmon.
Drive, determination, the ability to defy the odds, and the will to move mountains were the characteristics that allowed Noel to thrive, and succeed, throughout his life. He was born in Salem, Ore., on Dec. 2, 1938, to Minnie Louise Adams and Wilbur Franklin Lesley. His mother worked for the post office, and his father was a car salesman. Noel’s sister Gay died in 1956 at the age of 17. He graduated from Stayton (Ore.) High School in 1957, where he was the president of his senior class.
In 1961, he graduated from the University of Oregon with a bachelor of science degree in physical education, and in 1964, he received his masters in health and education. He was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.
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In 1962, he met Mary Carolyn Pitchford, and they were married on Sept. 19, 1964.
Working out of the garage, he launched Noel Lesley Event Services. He’d put up their three tents at fairs throughout southern Oregon and at events around the Rogue Valley. They never advertised their events business; it was all word of mouth.
And then, in 1984, Noel took a flying leap of faith that would change his and his family’s life. He drove from Ashland to Palo Alto, Calif., and sold himself and his business to the National Football League, promising that NLES could deliver not just tents, but help in any other build-out projects needed at Super Bowl XIX at Stanford University. Never mind that all Noel had at the time was a black courier pickup truck, a trailer and a few tents. He believed he could do the job – and do it well.
So did the National Football League, which employed Noel Lesley Event Services for Super Bowl XIX in 1985 – and every year after, now 26 years and counting. The league also has employed NLES for the Pro Bowl in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Today, Noel Lesley Event Services is the largest company of its kind in the Pacific Northwest and Western regions of the United States. NLES serves a wide gamut of sporting events, including those for the National Football League, the University of Oregon, Stanford University, the BCS Championship Games, the Fiesta Bowl, the Rose Bowl, the Olympic Games, World Cup Soccer, concerts of all genres, corporate clients, State and County fairs, country clubs, golf tournaments, and festivals, as well as weddings, private parties and charity events.
Being in charge of an event services management company was the perfect fit for Noel. He was all about being loving, giving and generous to others. He was full of grace, dignity and integrity, with a wonderful sarcastic wit. He loved spending time with his family, taking them rafting on the Rogue River, or just hanging out, together, on the patio at his house. He was dedicated to giving back to his community in many ways, giving in both time and resources. He gave positive momentum to numerous charities, personal involvement, leadership, ideas (he loved procurement meetings and brainstorming sessions for auctions). He gave charities a base from which to grow. The Valley is a better place for Noel’s giving – he never wanted anything in return, just the opportunity to open his home and his heart.
He is survived by his wife Mary, and their three children, James S. Lesley, of Kuna, Idaho; Nancy Louise Lesley, of Aspen, Colo., and Carolyn Elizabeth Lesley, of Ashland, Ore. He has one grandson, Tanner James Lesley, of Kuna, Idaho.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks remembrances be made in Noel’s name to support leukemia research under the direction of Dr. Brian Druker, at the Oregon Health Sciences University’s Knight Cancer Institute and eye research under the direction of Dr. James Rosenbaum, at the OHSU’s Casey Eye Institute. Checks should be made payable to the OHSU Foundation. The address is Mail Stop 45, P.O. Box 4000, Portland, OR 97208.
A celebration of his life will be held on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2010, at 1 p.m., at Noel and Mary’s home, 2630 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland, Ore.