By Shelley Cermak and Laura Sharpe,
IAM Local 764
Noreen Olive Schmitt was first a partner, mother, grandmother, a sister – and to many of us in the union family, a mentor! Kind, gentle, caring, empathetic and very sharing of her struggles and she wanted more for us young ones coming up the ranks. She spent countless hours with her union & community, teaching and passing on her knowledge.
She was an Original IAM Local 764 Rosie the Riveter, being the first woman in the airline trades – working at CP Air, Canadian Airlines and then Air Canada. She blazed the trail for the younger sisters behind her in, at that time, a patriarchal aviation industry.
Noreen started with CP Air in December 1974, in a male-dominated industry and union, at a time when women weren’t encouraged, nor involved. Her ability, strength of character and sheer determination forced her local and her union into being more enlightened.
She raised 3 children as a single mother, never giving in to the many difficulties & struggles of working in a male-dominated workforce.
She always supported, embraced and took time out of her life to give back to her union sisters and brothers every Christmas, making cake & cookies and hand-delivering them to sick or injured members of sick. Noreen was forever passionate about her union, fellow worker and community. She was the tireless backbone of our local Care and Comfort committee, miraculously always finding time to support those who were in need.
She shared the story of when CP Air sent her to China to see the aircraft paint shop. One of the workers laughingly handed her a spray gun and then stood agape as she showed them, how it was done.
Even after retiring in 2017 at 65 she returned to school to get her horticulture degree she lived to garden and she had a beautiful one at that! Finding she had a First Nations family and making sure she got to meet them all was a high light for her. She continued to be active in her union – as a member of the Retirees’ Club.
Noreen Schmitt was the first woman in the Aviation Trades. She was our own Rosie and left very big shoes to fill! She is still our role model.