Passing of a Legend - Darrell Noble - Team 71

Earlier this evening my dad, Darrell Noble, passed away. Since 1996 my dad has been a part of the FIRST family, and a founding mentor for Team Hammond 71. He was instrumental in helping guide Team Hammond to many Regional Championships and 4 World Championships. He was the WFFA at the 2004 West Michigan Regional. Thoughout the years he has mentored hundreds of students or more, and had the ability to interact with thousands at events. You could always find him in the pits tinkering with things and talking to anyone who would walk up, while my mom was in the stands supporting the team. FIRST people were more than friends to him, everyone was family. Words can not describe the impact he has had one shaping who I am today, and the memories I will keep forever both of our time in FIRST and personal life.

Chris Noble

87 Likes

I’m in shock. Darrell was such an amazing person and friend. If I was at an event with Darrell, I knew I’d be in for some laughs and good advice. Thinking of you Chris, you mom, your entire family, and the countless others who cared so much about your father.

25 Likes

Tom Michna
Darrell and I worked together for 20 years building robots. In that time he went from acquaintance to friend to family. At competitions he was always there to help with advice or a spare part. No one was turned away no matter how busy he was. The measure of Darrell was not his success at building winning robots but in the building young minds and friendships of the people he met.
Darrell will remembered for his enthusiasm for FIRST and way he cared for his family and friends.
I considered myself lucky to call Darrell my friend.

12 Likes

Me and FRC Team 1501 send their condolences in the passing of Darrell.
It was always enjoyable talking to him.
Rest in Peace.

2 Likes

Chris,
I’m sorry to hear of your father’s passing. Having had the opportunity to meet and hangout with both of you several times throughout my years of involvement in FRC was highlight. I will keep you and your family in my thoughts.

4 Likes

Events are going to be strange without Darrell there. His smile and his laugh will be forever with me. Thanks for being who you are Darrell. Say hi to Woodie.

8 Likes

I talked with Darrell in Hammond’s pit at the Detroit championship in 2018 as a star-eyed FIRST history junkie at the end of my senior year getting to see the “famous” teams I had read about and watched for years. I had dragged my friends around, stopping to look at the X-Cats pit and the Rocketeers’ 1992 robot and trophy and TechnoKats, and when we got to Hammond’s pit he must have spied the awe in my eyes because he invited me in and we talked old 71 stuff for a little while. He wrote down the names of some of Hammond’s old skits on a piece of paper and his email and we emailed back and forth a few times. Absolutely didn’t need to take time out of a busy championship to talk to some random kid on a team he had probably hadn’t heard of, but I think it shows what kind of person he was. Rest in peace.

10 Likes

Darrel was one my dearest friends in the world. We both joined FRC at the same time, we became acquainted at Midwest events and we shared successes and failures through the years. I could depend on Darrel to help me with teams at events. I could ask him to work with a team and then turn him loose. We had great times this past quarter century and I will miss him smiling at me at events, looking over his glasses when he was pulling my leg and sauntering down pit row looking for a team to help or to see old friends. Team Hammond and WildStang have been rivals over the years and we still will ask “What would Beatty do?” when brainstorming at kickoff. Yes we were friends but as Tom pointed out above, we are family. I remember working with Darrel in Western Michigan one year as we struggled to get several rookies to playing condition. He was determined that those teams would not go home without a good experience and that has shaped how I expect LRIs to perform at their own events.
Over the years he pointed out to me Hammond graduates that went on to better things and he knew he had a hand in their success. I truly believe that Darrel’s inspiration has made better students and certainly has been one of the influences on other mentors to keep doing good on their own team.
I remember one particularly difficult Midwest Regional where we had several rookies and a bunch of veteran teams that were not ready or working. I gathered several mentors including Darrel and told them what I knew. Darrel organized the mentors and their teams to help each of those problem robots. It was a difficult task as without those robots we would not have an event. I seem to remember there were 6 serious problems and at least four other robots who could drive and nothing else. As I continued to check progress during the day, I found Darrel in each one of those pits directing students or showing them how to use a tool. By the end of the day, all teams were inspected and ready to play.
Over the years, Beatty was very successful and I was always shocked (but never worried) when 71 would tear the robot apart on the first day and make it better. My inspection staff would stand in awe as 71 usually was near the inspection station. Over the years, many would question me when I told them not to worry, the robot would be ready.
I was extremely proud when Darrel won WFFA and I knew it was well deserved. The next Midwest, I was presented with WFFA (by Andy Baker) and Darrel congratulated me as a brother. During the past decade or so mentor parades, Darrel, his wife Cis, my wife Dottie and I would all migrate to the very end of the line. We were the old hands and we would hold up signs we had to modify, first “15+” then “20+” as no one thought there mentors around that long. Of course there are few others who would join us, John Novak, Andy Baker, Dan Green, and others who will give me grief for not remembering them. Yes we spent a lot of time together. We talked as much as we could, we met after hours and during the off season and sometimes we ‘discussed’ robot rules but we always were friends.
If you also ask “What would Beatty Do?” during kickoff this year, think of Darrel, I know I will for years to come. Goodbye old friend!

23 Likes

I’m at a lack for words. Mr. Noble (never Darrell, no matter what age I was) was an amazing influence.
His dedication to the Students and families of Hammond was unmatched, and his sheer love of the game was spectacular. I always looked forward to seeing and talking to him at whatever events I attended, wether it be a regional or the Beach Bash. Robots simply will not be the same moving forward.
I can say that knowing him for 20+ years has been a privilege and learning from him has been an honor. Chris, my heart goes out to you and your family. Love you all.

4 Likes

Sad news. Darrell was my kind of people. Always welcoming. Never too busy to explain something to you or to listen sympathetically if you just needed someone to hear you out. I haven’t seen him much lately, but I feel his loss.

Raise a glass.

Joe J.

5 Likes

Thanks, Chris, for posting this. Your father was a great friend to me and many others. May peace be with you, your sister, you mom and the rest of your family during this difficult time.

For the rest of you, I hope to be able to say some things here that will make you feel a bit better during this sad time.

Al Skierkiewicz and I were fortunate to be able to visit with Darrell two weeks ago. At that point, rehab was not going well at all, and he wanted to rest. Darrell was coherent and able to talk, listen, and hold my hand. Both Al and I were able to tell him that he was loved by us and many, and his impact and legacy to the FIRST community was large.

During the short time we had with Darrell that evening, I did feel like I was representing the FIRST community while giving him love and friendship during this tough time. I believe he was able to receive it this way also. We both knew that there were many friends who could not be there to say what they wished to say. Hopefully, Al and I were able to be good representatives for the rest of you who knew Darrell as a good friend.

Sincerely,
Andy B.

24 Likes

While I was never fortunate enough to get to know him as a student, he was always a presence at every Indiana event 71 was at. Always willing to help, listen, or just be there. While I may have not known him as well as others here, his absence will be noticeable for many of us in Indiana, both this weekend at B3, and in the 2022 events.

The entire Noble family is full of his spirit, his helpfulness, and his mentorship. He was a truly amazing man and will be missed dearly. @Chris_Noble your family is still our family, and you carry on his legacy within FIRST.

6 Likes

I was on Team 71 as a pit crew member from 2002-2004. I was a shy, skinny kid from Hammond High. Mr. Noble was one of the first people that greeted me when I got to my first meeting. I will second that it was always Mr. Noble and never Darrell. He helped so many students, myself included. He was the kind of engineer many aspire to be. He was encouraging, extremely intelligent, friendly, and (most importantly) patient. Even under the most intense pressure, when my hands would be shaking with tools/zip-ties/bolts/etc in my hands trying to fix broken parts in the next 2 minutes before our next match, he was a steady voice of encouragement next to me. In his steady, calm voice he was telling everyone who was working on the robot what to do, how to do it, and still sneaking in some jokes that kept us grounded and clear-thinking.

I have many memories and stories about working with Mr. Noble at the ACC in that old, musty room overlooking a crumbling parking lot. Many Saturdays spent sharing a White Castle crave case. Many weeknights cutting aluminum, making spare parts, prototyping, and learning how to use different tools. Many hours spent in the pits running back and forth to other teams he was helping with parts, tools, and batteries. You could always count on him no matter what. He was always in your corner, and always let the students do the work even though he was a million times faster and better.

I still have the Fluke multimeter that he gave me. I use it all the time. Whenever anyone asks me about anything electrical, I immediately reach for that. I tell them about it, how I got it, and the amazing person that gave it to me.

Mike Phillips

19 Likes

I don’t believe it. Mr. Noble, we miss you. He was always the person I looked forward to seeing the most every year when we went to Midwest while I was growing up. I’m surprised I didn’t annoy him with all my persistent 8 year old energy. The memory of him at IRI in 2006 bangs around in my head every once in a while when we (16) were playing against 71 in the elimination rounds. I mentioned I was sad to be against 71 again as it seemed like we could never be on the same alliance. When the conversation was through, before we sat together to watch our teams fight it out, he kindly told me, “May the better man win.” …71 won.

-John Taylor Novak

7 Likes

My heart goes out to Chris, the entire Noble family, and all of the extended family that a man like Mr. Noble built over time just by being himself and helping others. He showed so much by example - from FIRST to life beyond the competition & collaboration FIRST provided. While he took plenty of time to speak with you genuinely, so much of what I learned from him and appreciated the most were things that you pick up on by just observing him over time. In my time being blessed enough to know him, he handled life like he handled the pit - stay even keeled, perform under pressure, and take great care of those around you. Much love and respect. Prayers up and best wishes to Chris, Mrs. Noble, and everyone privileged enough to know him.

3 Likes

Chris,

Thank you for posting this and sharing more about your father. I’ve come to FIRST later in life, but it is clear that people like Darrell created something wonderful, something special, something to carry on. He was clearly loved by many and had an impact far beyond Team 71. May the people you meet, that were inspired by Darrell, bring you joy and comfort in the coming years.

I’m looking forward to sustaining his passion by continuing to work with students! I’ll return to events in ‘22 with Darrell and your family on my mind.

Sam

4 Likes

I’m writing this as I fly home from Darrell’s funeral, and it still doesn’t seem real. I met Darrell when I was 17 years old. I was a bratty teenager going through a lot at home, getting my first taste of independence and still trying to figure out my path. I did not understand gracious professionalism. I had been working nights at a grocery store and the graveyard shift on Fridays and Saturdays at the local newspaper, where I lied about my age to be able to do so. Higher education was suggested as the next step for me, but I didn’t know what to do or where to start. I wasn’t good at anything in particular. I only joined the team after losing a bet.

The mentors didn’t know what to make of me and they’ve admitted as much. But the entire Bot Boosters group, including Cis and Darrell, included me and began to take me under their wing. They learned about my family and my home life. They gave me tasks and let me feel like I could contribute, despite joining the season late and having to work many evenings. But most of all, there was a lot of tough love given when I needed it. When I acted out, I got called out on it. I learned from Darrell and my other mentors that tough love is given when someone sees potential in you and knows that you aren’t living up to it. The Bot Boosters called me out on it, the first real accountability from adults I actually cared about in my life outside of my parents. They encouraged me to go to college. They introduced me to other people in their lives - their kids, their siblings, their parents, people throughout Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan FIRST who became my closest friends. They encouraged me in so many ways that became life-changing.

Their commitment to the program was immense. Every scrap of vacation time, every extra bit of spending money, every evening and weekend went to the robotics team. Hundreds of kids passed under their tutelage, all receiving the same level of attention and care. We were watched over and arranged for, regardless of the circumstances. Not enough money for competition travel? Come work for an afternoon or two and we’ll cover you. Plenty of fundraisers the Bot Boosters ran in their spare time helped to fill the gaps. Rides, supervision, meals - you name it. For the kids that needed it most, these incredible people filled in for parents that weren’t around or weren’t able to be what their kid needed. They did all of this for decades. I realized, as many did in the years after, that they gave an incredible commitment to these kids yet never once asked for anything in return.

In the face of Darrell’s passing, I’ve gone through so many emotions. I’m still processing those, but the overwhelming one is deep, painful grief. For the Noble family to lose him, for Team Hammond to have lost such a major part of their program, selfishly, for me to have lost a friend and mentor I’ve known over half my life. For reference, Hammond households earn 33% less than the average US household median income, and the city has a 22% poverty rate. Darrell was one of an incredible group of people that gave us something money can never buy: pride in ourselves, in our schools, in our hometown, in our achievements. I wish every student in FIRST could have what we had, though I know it’s just not possible. Every team deserves their own Darrell Noble, but there was truly only one like him.

26 Likes