The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

Neil Aire Van Aelst


January 1, 2020

Neil was born on Aug. 17, 1932 at the family farm in Orchard Heights near Goldendale to Aire and Neva (Haupet) Van Aelst.

His first year of school was spent at Woodland school house, and then he went to school in a one room schoolhouse in Orchard Heights until the middle of fifth grade as the only student at the time. They moved him to Goldendale where he stayed until he graduated in 1950.

He entered the Army on Oct. 28, 1954. He served in California, Puerto Rico, and Arizona, earning the rank of PVT 1st class. Neil was discharged Aug. 1, 1956.

On Christmas Day 1956, Neil soloed in a Taylor Craft to earn his pilot’s license. He received his commercial license in 1957. Neil flew many people around Mt. Adams, including skydivers and tourists. He loved to fly. He was a longtime member of the sheriff’s air patrol, flying numerous missions. He was also a longtime member of Klickitat County Search and Rescue and the American Legion. He was also a member and flew for RFD 7.

In the ’60s, Neil owned a sawmill. He logged the right of way for Highway 97 and sold the lumber. He also built several houses with the lumber he milled.

He married Muriel Proctor on April 28, 1968, and they lived on and worked the farm without complaint until her death on Sept. 22, 1991, of cancer. In 1991 Neil sold the farm.

Neil had a trucking business and hauled hay. He says he made more money hauling it than he ever did growing it.

Neil married Velma Elaine Hile on Dec. 28, 1991. They did many things—farmed, ran a sawmill, built houses, and were snowbirds who ran their own home away from a home trailer park in Arizona.

If you were to ask Neil what he did, he would say he was a farmer of hay, grain and cows. As you can see, he was so much more and a friend to many.

Neil was preceded in death by his parents, his brother Edward, niece Dixie Van Aelst Simons; and wife Velma Elaine Hile Van Aelst. He is survived by niece and husband Mark and Ginger Schoesler; sister and brother-in-law Jean and Jim Endy; sister-in-law Lenora Van Aelst; stepson David Young; nieces and nephews Jonathan Simons, Corey Simons, Cody Schoesler and Veronia Clintin.

A memorial service was held on Saturday, Dec. 28,2019, at Columbus Avenue Baptist Church in Goldendale. In lieu of flower, please send donations to Klickitat County Search and Rescue. To send condolences to the Van Aelst family, please visit


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