Apparently, there is some type of "C" clip between the handle and the door panel that needs to slide out first. I have not had my handles off yet, but I ordered a tool from Nat'l Parts Depot that is supposed the make the removal of the clip a snap.
They make a tool for these (flat piece of metal with a cut out that allow the tool to pass by two sides of the door handle, grabbing and pushing the small wire clip off the shaft) Locally Kragen and Grand Auto still carry them. Know people that have used anything with a small hook to remove. On the back side of the clip (where it loops) they puch in on the door panel to get a little clearance then reach in, hook and pull the clip. Heard from a number of people who have used knitting needles.... or was it crochete(S?)
Use the tool if you can dig one up. The clip slides off only enough to remove the
handle or window crank when you use the tool. Most any other procedure sends the clip
flying to some hard to find or see place. The clip also slides in line with the handle.