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Norma Schmoker leaves lasting legacy in Fort Dodge

Fort Dodge businesswoman died Saturday

Norma Schmoker

It’s hard to imagine a person who has been as involved and influential in so many aspects of the Fort Dodge community as Norma Schmoker.

Schmoker passed away on Saturday at the age of 85 at Friendship Haven. She leaves behind a legacy that shows it’s not enough to just live in a community — one must also be actively involved in their community.

Schmoker was involved in everything from teaching Sunday school, to being a 4-H leader, to leading the Cooper Elementary Parent-Teacher Association, to serving on many boards, to running a business with her husband.

“Whether it was her time or talent, Norma was always a person who stepped up to help out her community and other people,” said Fort Dodge Mayor Matt Bemrich. “She’s left a legacy that will live on for a very long time.”

Schmoker graduated from Fort Dodge Senior High in 1953 and from Iowa State University in 1957 with a degree in home economics and business. In 1956, she married Tom Schmoker. She taught home economics and business classes at Dayton High School for two years before she and her husband co-founded the Quality Plus Products Company, which manufactured veterinary pharmaceuticals.The couple ran the firm from 1962 until they sold it in 1989 to French firm Sanofi Animal Health. After retirement, the Schmokers helped develop The Woodlands and River Forest housing areas in Fort Dodge.

Norma Schmoker was a member of the Fort Dodge Community School District Board of Education from 1976-1988, even serving as the board’s first female president from 1981-1983.

“I’ve always been interested in the youth of the community and this would give me a further opportunity to serve them,” she told The Messenger in 1976 when she first filed to run for school board.

Over the years, Schmoker served on the Trinity Hospital Board for 12 years, Iowa Central Foundation Board for eight years, YMCA Board for four years and the Iowa State Workforce Development Board for 12 years. The Norma Schmoker Women’s Center at UnityPoint Health is named after her, which provides breast cancer diagnostic services.

“I believe very strongly in community involvement,” Schmoker told The Messenger in 1999. “Living in a community doesn’t mean you sit on the sidelines and take shots. I feel very strongly that everybody should be involved.”

She said growing, prosperous communities are the ones that have the majority of the population involved in beneficial activities.

Schmoker was part of a task force that convinced the state government to place a prison in Fort Dodge, which ultimately resulted in the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility opening in April 1998.

In 1986, Schmoker was the first recipient of the Athena Award, which is now called the Catalyst Award from the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance.

“She was always there to step up, not just financially, but more so with her time and with being a leader in helping set community direction,” said Dennis Plautz, chief executive officer of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance.

Plautz knew Schmoker for many years.

“She was reserved and quiet when she spoke, but she was somebody you wanted to listen to them and their opinion,” he said. “My sympathies go out to the family because they and the community have suffered a real loss.”

Schmoker is survived by Tom, her husband of 64 years, their three children and nine grandchildren.

A private memorial for family only will be held. Gunderson Funeral Home is handling arrangements.

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