The Island has lost a keen local historian with the passing of Mrs Noreen Freeman, in Blackwater Mill retirement home, at the age of 98.
Born to Henry and Nellie McComb at Albany Barracks where her father, an Ulsterman, serving with the Royal Ulster Rifles was stationed, the family moved to Belfast and Germany with her elder sister Gwendoline, who died in infancy, and younger brother, James.
Noreen returned to the Island when her father, on leaving the Army, was appointed manager of the recently-built Ryde Airport, where she met air pioneer, Amy Johnson.
After school, she became a cinema projectionist in Newport and showed military operation films to the Army personnel, as the country was, by this time, at war.
The need to undertake war work saw Noreen become a welder in Southampton Docks. Journeying back to Ryde from a night shift, she had a lucky escape when she missed the paddle steamer ‘Portsdown’ on September 20, 1941 as the vessel struck a mine off Southsea Castle.
When she was 17, she met Raymond Freeman and they married in 1944. Honeymooning locally, they witnessed the departure of the shipping convoys heading to France for the D-Day invasion.
Ray worked for an agricultural engineering firm and later joined Southern Vectis as a fitter in Newport. The couple obtained a newly-built council house in Winston Road (which they eventually purchased) and had three children, David, Jan and Paul. Paul sadly died in 2016. David and Jan emigrated to Australia and Noreen and Ray took a number of holidays there. Ray died in 2001 after 57 years of marriage.
Noreen came from a musical family and was a good pianist; she also enjoyed dancing even into her eighties, as well as knitting and cooking.
She worked for soft drinks manufacturer Gould, Hibberd & Randall in Church Litten and then Corona and Glaxo who took over the firm. In retirement she attended Glaxo retired employees’ luncheons and was a long-standing member of the Southern Vectis Retirement Association, of which she was secretary for some years. She was also deeply interested in the history and buildings of Newport and was known for her friendly and helpful attitude.
Noreen leaves her surviving children, David and Jan and their families, including eight grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren. The funeral service was at the IW Crematorium.