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Irene Noyes still going strong at 100

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Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2013 10:48 am | Updated: 5:27 pm, Thu Sep 12, 2013.

FAIRBANKS - Belated birthday wishes to Irene Noyes, a former Fairbanks resident who turned 100 on July 13.

She is also a former dog musher, trapper, hunter, parka maker, bead worker, parachute packer, telephone operator and more.

"She treasures the memories and loves to laugh," said her daughter, Abby Benoit, a resident of Bremerton, Wash.

Irene, who moved out of the Northward Building in 2012,  lives in an apartment building for senior citizens in Bremerton. Her eyesight is poor, but her health is fine.

If you want to write her, send a card to: Irene Noyes, The Willows, 3201 Pine Road, NE, Bremerton, WA 98310.

Here is what I wrote about her in 2006 when the Lend-Lease Monument was dedicated in Fairbanks downtown along the Chena River:

 

She didn't fly or fix airplanes during World War II, but Irene Noyes, 93, played a part in helping the Lend-Lease effort that is to be commemorated this afternoon in Fairbanks.

The dedication of the Lend-Lease Memorial today is expected to draw a host of dignitaries, including U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Ivanov.

When Noyes, who recently moved into the Northward Building after 22 years in Fairview Manor, thinks about Ladd Field during those days, one of the things she remembers is spending endless hours at a sewing machine.

A resourceful woman who had grown up at a Yukon River roadhouse and was a skilled dog musher, Noyes was working to support her two young daughters, Noel and Abigail, after divorcing her husband.

Noyes first worked as a telephone operator at Ladd on equipment that was so old and antiquated that she had to shout to be heard on the long-distance calls relayed to Anchorage, which left her hoarse. She transferred to the parachute shop with the Cold Weather Test Detachment at Ladd Field. She helped pack and repair parachutes.

"When the Lend-Lease started the Russians needed wing covers for the planes, so we got the sewing machines going," she said.

"We made wing covers until we were green in the face, thousands of yards of covers," she said. "They were so heavy for the B-25s and took so much material that all I had to do was guide it through the sewing machine. There was a boy on each side pulling the muslin."

Noyes said that shortly after the first Russian contingent arrived in Fairbanks, she made a trip to the N.C. Co. store downtown to buy things for her kids.

"The clerk gave me a funny look and said, 'The women bought everything out,'" Noyes said.

In later years Noyes put her sewing skills to work at her own fur shop before going back to work as a telephone operator, first for the Alaska Communications System and later at Clear Air Force Base.

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