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Hanel auction nets more than $1M

Jean Hanel, left, and Janet Princehouse hold a 1940s aerial photo of the upper mill property, under construction, prior to the April 11-12.

Kirby Neumann-Rea photo
Jean Hanel, left, and Janet Princehouse hold a 1940s aerial photo of the upper mill property, under construction, prior to the April 11-12.


This April 16 front page story on the Hanel equipment auction incorrectly characterized the auction. It was Auction Sales Company’s first live simulcast auction, meaning the live internet bidding occurred at the same time as the live oral auction.

From small tool boxes to large graders used to build logging roads, the physical remnants of the Hanel Lumber era were sold off April 11 and 12, but Sterling Hanel’s legacy won’t be forgotten, his daughters say.

Objects large and small, from tool boxes to graders used to build logging roads, sold last weekend online and at the old Hanel mill site on Lower Neal Creek Mill Road in Odell.

Hanel Development Group, the last corporate vestige of Sterling Hanel’s legacy, shut down in November, after the close death of his two sons Bob and Bill. The was sale conducted by Auction Sales Co of The Dalles April 11 and 12.

In the Hanel administration building, the desk and office of Bob Hanel were still just as he left it before his untimely death.

Last weekend’s sale grossed over $1 million, said Rocky Webb of Auction Sales.

“So many people came and said how sad it was that it came to an end,” Webb said. “Sterling Hanel contributed so much to the community besides employment and dollars. Definitely, it’s an era that’s over.”

The event was the first time the The Dalles-based company has used an interactive online bidding process. The heavy equipment was sold in the online auction Friday in a matter of a few short hours. It drew bidders from all over the western United States and several foreign countries. Buyers from all over the Pacific Northwest turned out in person to join he event.

“All the equipment went back to end users — people who will be putting it back to work,” said Webb. Some of it will go as far away as Africa.

Smaller shop equipment, tools and parts were sold on Saturday.

“That went in all directions,” Webb added

Sterling Hanel started the business more than 70 years ago, in 1943.

Family belongings, files, commemorative plaques, computers and all manner of office furniture were still being packed up by sisters Jean Casey and Janet Princehouse, the only remaining Hanel family heirs.

Casey said the sisters hope to sell the property within a year.

“It depends on who and what,” Jean said.

“We hate to close it but we live in La Grande and we want to retire someday and nobody in the family has been into this enough to take it over, and Jean and her husband also want to retire,” Janet said.

“Someday soon, hopefully,” Jean said.

“We have grandkids all over the country, and we’re all getting up there.”

Asked how they want the Hanel Lumber legacy to be remembered, Jean said, “Our Dad. Our parents. Wonderful people.”

“A loving family. Poppy and Mommy were awesome, and Mom still is,” Janet said. Kathleen, 94, lives at Hawks Ridge Assisted Living Community in Hood River. “She is just so upbeat and caring about people, and both Mom and Dad were that way,” Janet said.

“I’m not ready to just throw it away. A lot of history,” Janet said. “We’ll rent a storage shed first.”

Previews and the auctions brought out plenty of memories.

“I remember bringing logs to the upper mill site in 1969,” Prineville’s Chuck Woodward said. “I have good memories of Sterling and the mill.” Woodward was fresh out of college in 1969 when he logged the old Mill Creek fire south of The Dalles and brought the logs to Hanel.

“We took logs other places, but I always preferred Sterling’s place,” he said.

Sterling Hanel started Hanel Lumber Company in 1943 and built the upper mill site in 1952, expanding its planing, cutting and kilning operations in 1953 and 1957. In 1983 he purchased the 65-acre Champion mill at Neal Creek, four miles north of the “upper” mill. This gave the company increased planing, dry kiln and lumber storage.

Sterling retired in 1993, at the 50th anniversary of the company, and his son Bob became president. Most of the lower mill site has been sold off over the years. The family said several buyers have expressed interest in the property.


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