Life Story / Obituary
Noreen Gardner was an amazingly resilient and independent woman. A loving and proud mother and devoted grandmother, she modeled being genuine and kind to everyone she met. Noreen held many special gifts and talents, yet cherished her growing family most of all. The wonderful memories she leaves behind will forever be etched on the hearts of her many special friends and family members for generations to come.
Noreen Gaye arrived on August 24, 1934, on the brink of what would later be recognized as the turning point of the Great Depression in America. As unemployment rates began to decline, her parents, Edwin and Florence Kleinsmith welcomed her into their world in Detroit, Michigan. Born the second child of four, her birth brought them much hope and happiness.
Noreen lived a typical childhood of the times. She and her siblings relied on one another for entertainment, creating many lasting memories that contributed to their closeness well into their adult years. Studious, as well as ambitious, she was active in the co-op banking program in high school which sparked her interest in banking. She was also the star of the junior year play, Our Miss Brooks (cast as Connie), an active member of the Commercial Club, and a member of the J-Hop Dance committee. Described as by her classmates as someone who always put her best foot forward, Noreen graduated with the Class of 1952 from Plymouth High School. After high school, she completed her post educational degree at the Graduate School of Banking, Wisconsin. She then began her long career in banking at the National Bank of Detroit in 1956. In the early years of her career, she gave birth to the loves of her life: son Leonard and daughters Terri and Shari.
Noreen’s professional career achievements were exceptional for her time, paving the way for women who desired to balance a career while raising a family. She firmly believed that with hard work and a strict schedule, nothing was impossible. After working as a bank teller at NBD of Garden City for several years, she transferred to the Westland branch in 1964 and was appointed general teller in 1965. Well-liked and known for her strong work ethic, Noreen was transferred back to the Garden City office in 1966 and appointed customer relations representative. She transferred to another Westland office in 1968, where she assumed the role of assistant manager. By 1969, Noreen became the branch manager at the north Wayne office. In 1970, she transferred to another Westland office. Noreen was later elected Assistant Banking Officer and transferred to NBD’s Detroit offices in 1974. She was elected Banking Officer in 1978 and simultaneously became the Detroit branch manager. In 1981, she was elected Assistant Vice President of NBD, a role she held until her retirement in 1989.
In addition to raising her three children and climbing in her career, Noreen was an active community member serving on various committees in Wayne and Westland. She was a member of the Wayne Chamber of Commerce, a council member of the Nor-Wayne Salvation Army advisory council, and an active member of the Westland Festival Committee. Throughout her trailblazing years of career and service, she was featured in the local Observer and other magazines various times. In 1973, she was interviewed as the subject of an article titled, “Local Women Prove Themselves In Banking, Psychiatry” wherein she encouraged girls to enter the career force in traditionally-male roles. In the same article, she is noted as “a little bit of a blonde” who manages all operations of her bank branch with breezy good humor and efficiency. Her career achievements were hard-earned, well-deserved, and exceptional for her time.
Although her years in the banking industry brought her much pride and enjoyment, her happiest moments were those spent with her family including her children Leonard, Terri, and Shari, her late daughter-in-law Leah, her sons-in-law Dennis and Tom, her grandchildren; Ryan, Melissa, Michael, Jillian, Robert, Matthew, Stephen, Andrew, Marc, and Madeline, as well as her great-grandchildren; Heliena, Elle, Ayla, Harper, Arya, Benjamin, Beckham, Nora, Leah, Dominic, Liviana, Ava, and James. Noreen was involved and active in the childhoods of her grandchildren and gave of herself graciously throughout their lives. She loved to host them in her Anna Maria Island home where she lived during the winter months. Her grandchildren loved the time they spent on the island together, as well as Noreen’s bottomless candy dishes. She was never without gummy bears, laughter, or a wealth of wise advice. Noreen was immensely proud of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren and delighted in all their successes. Phone calls with them were the highlight of any day.
Noreen held a wide variety of special pastimes. She traveled frequently with her adult children on family vacations and made a very special and memorable trip to Rome with her daughter, Terri. Noreen kept regular nail and hair appointments and enjoyed running her vacuum multiple times a day! She was a fan of crime shows on television and passionate in her political views. Noreen loved to take walks with her best friend, her dog, Teddy, who was right by her side when she passed peacefully in her favorite spot, her lanai in Anna Maria Island. Described as the matriarch of her family, fiercely independent, and loving beyond measure, Noreen will be dearly missed and fondly remembered by all who knew and loved her.
Noreen Gaye Gardner, 86, passed away January 18, 2021. Cherished mother of Leonard (the late Leah), Terri (Dennis) Buckshaw and Shari (Thomas) Russano. Dearest grandmother of Ryan Buckshaw, Melissa (Kevin) Cox, Michael (Becky Lyle) Gardner, Jillian (Kyle) O’Block, Robert (Kelly) Russano, Matthew Buckshaw, Stephen Russano, Andrew Buckshaw, Marc Russano and Madeline Buckshaw. Loving great-grandmother of Heliena, Elle, Ayla, Harper, Ayra, Benjamin, Beckham, Nora, Dominic, Leah, Ava, Liviana and James. A funeral Mass will be held at St. Rafka Maronite Catholic Church, on Thursday, with an instate 10 am until the time of service at 11:00 am. Interment at Cadillac Memorial Gardens West.