Annette Schmirler had a gift for making people feel special. The beloved Brew & Blendz manager and mother of two, a fixture in the Kinesiology building for a decade, passed away suddenly in October 2016 at the age of 52, leaving students and staff reeling from the loss.
“She had an uncanny ability to remember almost everyone's name and order, even if she hadn't seen them in a while and in some cases if she hadn't seen them in a few years. It left many people not only shocked but feeling very special and not just like another face in the crowd,” says Brad Dodds, co-owner of Brew & Blendz and longtime friend of Annette's.
Her ability to connect with students and staff on campus is what made her so special. She was that "mom away from home" for many students; she truly cared about what was going on in their lives.
Popular 'mom away from home' had a hug for everyone
“Annette's biggest passions were pleasing and taking care of everyone,” says her husband, Brad Schmirler. She blended work with motherhood. Annette took jobs centred in educational settings where she could work with children. When she wasn’t at work she enjoyed travelling and planning for her next big adventure.
Annette’s enthusiasm for her work was fed by her passion for being a part of the campus community. Working at the University of Calgary allowed her to put her outgoing and friendly nature to use every day.
“Annette was one of a kind,” says aquatic manager Dominique MacDonald, who knew Annette for a decade. “She had a zest for life and a distinct laugh that was contagious. She was so personable.”
Annette would come from behind the counter to the food court to give her customers a big bear hug. At graduation, students would introduce their families and have their photos taken with her. She meant so much to them. “People who worked in other areas of campus would go out of their way to come to the Kinesiology building to get a coffee with a side of Annette,” recalls MacDonald.
Annette was considered a legend — one whom alumni still remember, and who was introduced to new students as part of campus tours.
Memorial plaque to honour unsung hero
To keep her memory alive, a plaque will be placed in the Kinesiology building March 6 at 11 a.m. in Baron’s Court near Brew & Blendz, the place where Annette worked, and underneath, there will be a place for people passing through to write encouraging words and inspiration as a testament to her kindness.
“I think it's important to acknowledge and remember Annette because her impact was so widely felt, yet taken for granted. Annette affected countless people every day by just being herself and without asking for anything in return,” says Graham Duff, a student in political science, who knew Annette for more than five years.
“We all need more people like Annette and to appreciate them when we find them.”
Is there an unsung hero you work with at UCalgary? Tweet your amazing story during RenewFest, Feb. 21-24 using #ucalgary50 or submit it through ucalgary.ca/celebrate. Recognition should be offered every day and in abundance. During RenewFest, say thanks to a colleague with an e-note or consider formally recognizing a colleague for a U Make a Difference Award.