This is a re-post of a blog post I did on April 8, 2013. At last week’s Village Board meeting, Village President Norm Abbott presented a proclamation declaring April 8 as Lansing Fallen Heroes Memorial Day.
While this post is about my cousin, Ken Novak, Jr., we also take a moment to remember Cpl. Phil Martini, who died while serving with the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq on April 8, 2006. He is the only person from Lansing who has lost his life while performing his duties in the current war.
Sometimes things happen in life that leave you dumbfounded. There is no explanation, no comfort, no nothing. Period.
On April 8, 1992, my cousin Kenny volunteered for a shift even though he wasn’t scheduled to work. He was a full-time dispatcher for the Village of Lansing (Illinois), a special part-time police officer and a paramedic. He and his partner had stopped to check on a disabled vehicle. It was then that they were fired upon. Kenny was shot and his partner, also shot, returned fire and fatally shot the gunman. His partner survived his wounds; Ken did not. He was 27.
From the Officer Down Memorial Page:
Officer Kenneth Novak was shot and killed while investigating a suspicious vehicle at 172nd Street and Oak Avenue.
At 10:00 pm, Officer Novak had approached the vehicle and questioned its female occupant, who provided false identification. After returning to his squad car, a male subject emerged from a nearby wooded area and began firing six shots, wounding both Officer Novak and another officer. The other officer was able to return fire twice, killing the male suspect instantly. Officer Novak was transported to The Community Hospital in Munster, Indiana, where he died from his wounds despite wearing a bullet-resistant vest.
The male suspect, who was under house arrest for aggravated battery, had stolen a car and fled from Indianapolis with the female accomplice. She was later found guilty of attempted murder of the wounded officer and sentenced to 27 years in prison, but was found not guilty of the first-degree murder of Officer Novak.
Officer Novak had served with the Lansing Police Department for over eight years, beginning as a police cadet in December 1983, before becoming a part-time officer in April 1986. He also served as a full-time dispatcher and certified paramedic with the department. Officer Novak was survived by his parents and sister.
There is also a Facebook Page that has been set up to honor Ken.
Ken had always known that he wanted to be a police officer. He would use his bicycle as a his ‘police vehicle’ with the neighborhood kids – until he finally became part of the Lansing Police Force years later.
Even though Kenny and I grew up in the same town and he was only 3 years older than I, we only saw each other at family picnics – once a year at best. Yet he lives on in my mind. I am sometimes taken aback by how much I think about him, considering our families weren’t all that close. Kenny loved trains and fishing. As a young girl and into my teenage years, that’s not what I remember about Kenny. I remember the guitar.
Around 1980 or 1981, I had picked up the guitar. I have no idea why, but I brought it to our family picnic that August. I mentioned this to Kenny’s father. Next thing I know, he is calling for Kenny to come over. Both of them then insisted that I get my guitar out of the car. They wanted to hear me play. I went and got it. I don’t think I was very good (I could play maybe 4 ‘real’ songs), but you wouldn’t know that by the way Kenny acted. He encouraged me and you would have thought that I was the next new guitar talent! He also played a song or two for me. I will never forget that. I can tell you what I had on, what Kenny had on, which picnic table we were sitting at, etc. Truly amazing? When you are an awkward 13-year-old and a 16-year-old boy is telling you how great you are…
…well… it never leaves you (cousin or no cousin!). He was just an overall nice guy.
Kenny, you left a lot of people who you’d had an impact on – and continue to have an impact on – even though you aren’t physically with us. It’s hard to believe it has been 21 years.
Rest in Peace and we’ll see you on the other side.
I think I’m going to go and get my guitar (yes, I still have it) and play a very poor rendition of ‘Yesterday’ by the Beatles or ‘Stairway to Heaven’ by Led Zeppelin, two of the songs that I had played for Ken that day.
Area Cops Pay Respects To One of Their Own
Fallen Officer ‘always wanted to be a policeman’
Woman Convicted of 2 Counts in Lansing Officer’s Killing
A Routine Stop Is Cop’s Last One
Officer Down Memorial Page
Lansing Police Office Kenneth Novak, Jr. Memorial FB Page
Tuesday is Lansing Fallen Heroes Day