Obituary: Dec. 27, 1934 – Aug. 7, 2018

THOMAS J. NOVAK Dec. 27, 1934 – Aug. 7, 2018

Thomas J. (Tom) Novak, 83, passed away peacefully on August 7, 2018 at the family home. He spent his last day surrounded by family, humoring everyone with his quick wit and being in command (giving orders) while appreciating the things he loved about his home: the sunset view from the deck, the hummingbirds, and his loyal companion shihtzu, Gigi. Tom was born the youngest of 10 children in Nashville, Illinois on December 27, 1934 to Walter and Rose (Piecnik) Novak. 

He is survived by his wife of nearly 62 years, Martha (Marty) L. Novak (nee. Vaughn), whom he dearly loved and their five children – Thomas Novak, Pamella Carlton (Randy), Michael Novak, Jeffery Novak (Samara), and Curtis Novak (Sheri); his brothers – Clements and Walter (Patricia) Novak, and sister, Marie Pries; brother-in-law, John (Connie) Vaughn, and sisters-in-law – Dorothy Vance and June George; grandchildren – Amber Askew, Angelie Rich, Jesse (Sylvia), Caitlin, Michael, Samuel, and Noah Carlton, Kylie Novak, Kevin (Katie) and Randy (Victoria) Quarteri, Gabe, Josh (Stephanie) and Miranda Montoya, and Morgan Novak; 10 great-grandchildren; plus numerous nieces and nephews. 

Tom graduated from Nashville High School in 1954 and shortly after met the love of his life at the Blue Moon Family Dance Hall and Tavern. He enlisted in the Army and when Marty graduated in 1956 Tom made her his bride and took her back to Olalla, Washington where he was stationed. Upon finishing his enlistment, they returned to Illinois to start a family. It was the beginning of a solid life-long partnership in which they shared many joys and sorrows, good times and struggles. 

Tom worked as a machinist for Olin Mathieson and McDonnel Douglas Aircraft until 1967 when in search of job stability and a healthier climate for his children’s respiratory condition he moved his family to Los Alamos, New Mexico where he began a 23-year career at Los Alamos National Laboratory. While working as a machinist, Tom earned his Associates degree in Advanced Engineering Technology rising to the level of Precision Machinist and Dimensional Inspection Supervisor (Quality Control). He loved his work and lived by the verse, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the Lord and not for people.” Colossians 3:23.

Tom was a master mechanic who found great joy and challenge in making things work—he could fix anything, even designing and tooling his own parts to complete the job.

Outspoken in his convictions, a perfectionist nearly to a fault, and devoted to his family, work, and pursuits, Tom could be gruff at times but was also a kind-hearted and compassionate soul who was quick to lend a hand to anyone in need. He and Marty regularly opened their home to family, friends, co-workers and neighborhood get-togethers. He had a genuine smile and was a practical joker and tease, especially with children. 

A die-hard athlete and avid sports fan, Tom played as hard as he worked despite battling with rheumatoid arthritis most of his adult life. He coached his sons through Little League Baseball and YMCA basketball while also playing men’s city league basketball and fast-pitch softball. He played long enough for his older sons to join him until the pain after games outweighed the pleasure of playing and he hung up his cleats and glove and settled for managing. Marty supported him as concession stand mom, scorekeeper, and #1 fan. 

Tom retired from LANL in 1990 and in 1997 he and Marty moved to Elephant Butte, NM to escape the cold Northern New Mexico winters and fulfill Marty’s dream of living by the water. They continued their love of sports and community service as members of Our Lady of Perpetual Help church where Tom served with the Knights of Columbus and as members of American Legion Post 44 where he held various positions.

Tom also was Assistant Coach for the Hot Springs High School girls softball team from 1998-2001 and he and Marty were regular attendees at most HSHS sporting events. Tom and Marty never forgot how to have fun or that dancing would never fail to lift their spirits. They loved the outdoor life spending time together gardening, motorcycling, sightseeing, camping, fishing, and boating along with their children and grandchildren. Classic cars were Tom’s other passion and he and Marty took in car shows both locally and as they travelled.

He kept in close contact with his roots making regular trips back to Illinois over the years to stay connected with his and Marty’s family. Just two short weeks before Tom died, he, Marty and daughter, Pam made what ended up being his last trek to Illinois to celebrate Marty’s 80th birthday with their families. Tom was a good man who will be dearly missed by his beloved wife, his family, his friends, and his community.

A Rosary Service was held Monday, August 13, 2018 at 6:00 P.M. at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church led by Gary Montoya. Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Tuesday, August 14, 2018 at 11:00 A.M. officiated by Rev. Don Hyatt, CSB. Rite of Committal was at Vista Memory Gardens Cemetery followed by a meal at the Parish Hall. The American Legion Post 44 also hosted a memorial service and lunch at the post on Wednesday, August 15, 2018 at 12:00 noon. In lieu of flowers, the family requested that donations be made to the American Legion Post 44 Overseas Care Package program, which Tom and Marty faithfully supported and volunteered with from its inception 15 years ago.

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