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Cdr. Marvin Russell "Russ" Novak

1918 - 2014 Obituary Condolences
Novak, Cdr. Marvin Russell "Russ" SAN DIEGO -- Cdr. Marvin Russell 'Russ' Novak has taken his final flight into the vast heavens he knew and loved. After a full and rewarding 95 years, he passed away at 7:45 a.m. Tuesday, January 21, 2014 in San Diego, CA. Born on September 28, 1918 in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, he was the son of John Novak and Emily Hlinak-Novak. He had a sister, Estelle Novak- Rosinsky and a brother, David J. Novak. From 1932-1936, Russ attended Lincoln High School in Manitowoc, Wisconsin where he was an 'ace' athlete who lettered in Football & Track and set world records in the 100 & 220 yard dash and Long Jump. In 1936-1937, he took college extension courses and played Semi-Pro football with the Manitowoc Galloping GAELS. He was noted for his speed, drive and 'flashy running' as an offensive halfback and defensive fullback. In 1999, he was inducted into Football Inc.'s Semi-Pro Hall of Fame. In 1938-1939, as a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Russ played football and ran track. A junior in 1939-1940, he played Varsity football and ran quite fast. He set another record for the fastest 100 yard dash and was slated for the 1940 Olympic Trials, but never made it due to the outbreak of WW11. A senior in 1940-1941, he took CAA flight courses and completed his Solo Flight in 1940 in a CUB. In 1941, he and two friends bought a 1941 Aeronca. They charged friends $2 for a ride in their plane to help pay for gas. Russ joked that all the girls wanted a ride in their plane. He joined the Navy in October 1941 in Chicago, Ill and reported to NAS Glenview on January 2, 1942 as Seaman 2nd Class. On October 9, 1942, he received his Wings as an Ensign and was indoctrinated at Norfolk, VA. In 1943, he was promoted to LTJG and trained with the famed fighter air group, The Fighting 17 (VF-17). In August 1943, he was assigned to fighter squadron VF-14 in Atlantic City, where he had the honor of escorting Miss New Jersey, a Miss America contestant, for a week. He wrote, "we did go to a couple of coffee houses and did the boardwalk for some pleasant conversations she didn't win in the finals but Miss New Jersey was very cute and personable." From March-October 1944, he was in the Pacific Campaign aboard the aircraft carrier, The USS Wasp, where he served with distinction as a fighter pilot flying F6F-3 and F6F-5 Hellcats against the enemy. Credited with five confirmed victories and a 'probable kill,' Russ achieved Aviator ACE status. Iwo Jima, The Philippine Sea, The Mariana Turkey Shoot, and the Attack on the Yamato are a few of the battles he flew and fought in. Back home in December '44, he made full Lieutenant in January 1945. He can be found in a few WWII historical books which include "The Aces of Fighting 17" by Lee Cook and "Flying with Iron Angels Carrier Air Group Fourteen and The USS Wasp" by Charles Houston. Assigned to NAS Jacksonville, Florida for combat team training, he met Nancy Ann Elizabeth Hamner from Moultrie, Georgia. On May 18, 1945 they were married. Their daughter Sharon Kaye was born May 14, 1946 in Jacksonville. Later stationed in San Juan, Puerto Rico, their six-month old son Jonathon, died of hepatitis in 1947. Their son, Richard Alan, was born November 4, 1949. Sadly, both 'Ann' and Richard preceded Russ. Ann passed away following five years of declining health in November, 2004. Richard succumbed to heart failure on Dec. 16, 2008. Russ also served on board the USS Kearsarge and the USS Princeton. On August 1, 1951, he was promoted to Lt. Cdr. Upon the outbreak of the Korean War, he was the Executive Officer of VA-65 on board the USS Boxer. Through his 25 years of meritorious service in the U.S. Navy, Russ was awarded three Air Medal Citations, the Air Medal with 2 Gold Stars, Presidential Unit Citation (Korean), Navy Unit Commendation, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, Philippine Liberation Ribbon, and the WWII Victory Medal. In July 1963, he retired in San Diego, California, where the family was living. In 1964, he launched another career working as a Social Worker Supervisor for the S.D. Dept of Social Services until he retired in 1978. His many years of retirement kept him active in a variety of pursuits. An avid vegetable gardener, he was always outside digging in the dirt. A Bridge Master, he loved the game and played often. He also enjoyed golfing and playing the clarinet as he had often done with his brother Dave, a professional Tuba player. He sang in a chorus for years and was a Lifetime member of the Czech-Slovak Club in Balboa Park, attending meetings and donating time. He also volunteered with the Track team at SDSU, timing runners on a track he knew so well. He was always there to help family, friends, people he hardly knew. His was a heart of gold, but he could be a tough. He wanted the best for each of us who knew and loved him and he held the expectation that we would work hard and strive to meet our full potential. Russ Novak is survived by his daughter, Sharon and grandson, Sean; along with a cousin or two in Wisconsin and quite a few nieces and nephews in San Diego and Wisconsin. Many have benefited from his great fighter spirit and he will surely be missed as we bid him adieu on his final flight, flying high in the clouds and the great beyond, no doubt smiling down upon us. Following his Military Honors Ceremony at Fort Rosecran's at 2:30 on Friday, February 28, 2014, he will join Ann in their niche where she awaits him with open arms.

Published in The San Diego Union Tribune on Feb. 28, 2014
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