Obituary: Emory Vanoy ‘Sam’ Mobley

Aug. 26, 1928 ~ Jan. 17, 2021

Sam Mobley

Emory Vanoy “Sam” Mobley, age 92, passed quietly on Sunday morning. Following his wife’s death in December 2015, it was less than one year when Sam suffered a stroke and entered Life Care Center of Idaho Falls.

Sam was born AUG. 26, 1928, in Carbondale, Colorado, to Frederick and Lottie (Thompson) Mobley. He grew up on a ranch near Meeker, Colorado. Sam was the youngest of four brothers with 15 years between him and his next older brother. One of Sam’s brothers served in World War II and would tell Sam’s stories of his experiences. Sam grew up knowing hard work and making something out of little or nothing. The Great Depression shaped Sam’s early years and left him vowing to never be poor again.

As a youngster, Sam may have been home-schooled. He went to high school in Meeker, Colorado. After graduating in 1946, Sam joined the Marines until 1948 and then attended Western Colorado College in Gunnison for a year. Getting a good education and staying in school was very important to him. He loved mathematics, so much so that he chose to become an engineer. He worked hard and obtained his Master’s Degree in engineering in 1959.

In January of 1952, Sam met his future wife Eleonore Panzenhagen, at a New Year’s party in Rangely, Colorado. As the story goes, Eleonore returned to the East Coast shortly after New Year’s and told her own mother that she had met the man she was going to marry. And so they did on June 29, 1952, in Rangely, Colorado. The knot they tied remained so for 63 years until our Eleonore passed away in 2015.

In July 1953, Sam and Eleonore had their first child, a son, and in 1954, and in 1955, respectively, two daughters were born. The family lived in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Sam was in a work-study program at the White Sands Proving Ground, at New Mexico University. Shortly thereafter, the family moved to Washington state to the University of Washington work-study program at the Bomark project with Boeing aircraft. Sam obtained his Master’s degree in engineering in 1959. The family then moved to Idaho in August 1959, where Dad was hired at the site, the AEC, as it was known then. Sam retired from INEL in 1997, after working nearly 40 years in his field.

In 1963, the family moved from Arco to Idaho Falls and moved into the home where they would remain for the next 53 years. As he would say to himself upon reflecting on his life “not bad for a poor farm boy, not bad at all.”

Sam and Eleonore’s 53 years in Idaho Falls, were full and adventurous. Above nearly all things Sam loved to hunt. His oldest brother taught him to use a rifle at a very early age. Hunting was an integral part of dad’s entire life. Sam was an excellent marksman, once winning second place in the military marksman competition. Sam’s love of hunting and guns spanned his entire life. He had a large collection of guns and books. He was a member of the Eagle Rock Muzzle Loaders in the ‘70s and taught himself to build both flintlock and cap and ball muzzle loaders, gifting some to family, with hand tooled metal engraving. We remember with fondness how dad would say that when he “goes,” it would be to the Happy Hunting Grounds for that 40-inch buck.

Sam’s love of the great outdoors included a love of fishing. During those years he gifted many incredible fishing trips to Alaska, and other places like the Bahamas to catch bonefish, to his family. He built a great many fly rods and embellished them himself with ornamental fly tying patterns.

Sam and Eleonore both had a love of history and there were few historical events in Idaho and Colorado that Sam had not learned about. Dad loved anything to do with forts and early settlements, mines, mountain men, guns, swords and battles of Idaho and Colorado, and the world. Every summer vacation we took camping trips, including some centered on Idaho’s incredibly rich history. A few years even included going to old mining towns and searching for bottles and relics. Sam had a small antique bottle collection along with the guns, books, tools, and matchbooks.

Sam was a member of the Taylor Mountain ski patrol in the 1960s and took his kids to all the great ski areas in Idaho, including local ski areas: Taylor Mountain, Bear Gulch, Pine Basin, and Kelly Canyon.

Sam was an active participant in the Boy Scouts Troop 380 in the ‘70s. His son Keith was an Eagle Scout and they both went on several “50 miler” hikes. Lifelong friends and true adventures were made.

Sam learned to play bridge from his father-in-law who taught them both early on in their marriage. Our folks played bridge with people they enjoyed for over 50 years.

Sam had a flair for the lavish at times. He and his wife Eleonore bought a classic car, a 1966 Delta 88 Oldsmobile convertible, and once drove it to Colorado, for a family get-together. They enjoyed that Ruby red beauty for years.

Both Sam and Eleonore loved traveling to interesting and even exotic places in the world including Scotland, Aleutian Islands, Yukon Territory, Africa, Canada, all over the western United States, Switzerland, New Zealand, Panama Canal, Marshall Islands, Midway Island, Aruba, North slope of Alaska, England. Often the trips were a combination of both hunting trips and seeing the sights. The place they did visit the most, more than 20 times, was Alaska, where their son lived. Halibut and salmon fishing, moose and caribou hunts, bird and animal sightings, were always thoroughly enjoyed. Once Sam even did a float trip down the Mulchatna river in Alaska in 1996, on a caribou hunt.

In Sam’s mid and later life, he bought some acreage just outside Rigby, Idaho. He farmed this acreage, planted a great many fruit and pine trees and fondly named it “The Skunk Ranch.” He and mom would go up and care for the trees, have a cup or two of coffee and enjoy the place.

Perhaps now is the time to mention our dad’s love of coffee. To him, enjoying a cup of coffee with family or friend, was a trademark characteristic, one he kept faithfully his entire adult life. To our delight as kids, after a great cup of coffee, he would chortle out “smoooooth and delicious!” Our dad loved our mother’s cooking and he especially liked a homemade pie.

Of all the things our father did and all the places he ever went, none could hold a candle to Sam’s love of family gatherings around a Dutch oven feast hosted by his nephew Terry Mobley in Meeker, Colorado. To him, a good time nearly always included a “big feed,” coffee and his family.

Sam is survived by his son, Keith (Beth) Mobley; daughters, Willow Arlenea and Marsha (James Marshall) Mobley; two grandchildren, Forrest Jack (Geena) Mobley, and Samantha (Brian Helmso) Mobley; and two great-grandchildren Maximillian and Jane Helmso.

He was preceded in death by his parents and brothers John, Charles (Zandy) and Jasper (Mick) Mobley.

Sam has been laid to rest beside his wife, in the Highland Cemetery in Meeker, Colorado.

The care and kindness provided by the Life Care staff, who knew Sam for over four years, is deeply appreciated and our heartfelt thanks go out to each person that made our father’s last years as good as possible. Sam’s wit and spectacular way of putting words, or thoughts together, the way he would tell a story, before and after his stroke, endeared him forever to more than a few people.

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