Niel Woolley Hansen, 69, died on April 2, 2020 at his home. Parkinson’s Disease was an adversary for over 30 years. He was born on November 9, 1950 in Salt Lake City, Utah to William Apollo and Larona Woolley Hansen. He is survived by his daughters Whitney Barrell (Ross) and Adrianne Brown (Matthew), and four granddaughters: Aubrey (7), Libby (6), Nina (4), and Maya (4). He is also survived by his brother, Bill, and sisters Carla and Maren. He is preceded in death by his older brother Lee and his parents.
Niel grew up in Rose Park and graduated from West High School in 1969, where he lettered in both football and track. He was a Vietnam-era veteran, serving in the Utah Air National Guard for six years. In 1975, he graduated from the University of Utah School of Engineering with a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering. He married Elaine Anderson in the summer of 1978. They were married for 22 years.
Niel worked for Hercules/Hexel for 27 years, where he eventually earned the title of Director of Research and Development. He was sharp, driven, and an influential leader and pioneer in the application of carbon fiber technology for the aerospace and Formula 1 industries. He holds several patents specific to intermediate modulus carbon fiber. In 2000, Hexcel dedicated a carbon fiber test lab in his honor. Niel retired in 2005.
Niel was a motorsports aficionado; spending hours building go-carts, motorcycles, and some pretty creative machines. He meticulously restored three Chevrolet Corvettes. Niel’s mechanical expertise was in high demand among family, friends, and neighbors. He never hesitated to lend a hand or an opportunity to share his knowledge. Unsurprisingly, Niel requested that upon his death, he be cremated and his ashes mixed with a gallon of oil so he could circulate within a motor as his final resting place.
Niel was very stubborn - yet had a heart of gold. He possessed a quiet confidence with the belief that he could work most things out on his own. A generous and caring man who treasured his daughters and granddaughters.
His wry sense of humor and quick wit will be sorely missed. After having one of the first Deep Brain Stimulation surgeries in the United States for the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease, his quip was, “I have always liked gadgets - now I am one.” A connoisseur of Wild Turkey whiskey, Niel only left behind a few shots because he believed “every day is Thanksgiving.”
He’d often say, “You play the cards you’re dealt the best you can.” Niel did so with grace, grit, and humor. Rest easy, Pop.