Erv “Mick” Nowak passed away on Sunday evening, June 8, 2014, peacefully, at home and surrounded by his family – exactly the way he wanted it.
Erv (aka “Turvie” to his wife Lynn’s side of the family) was born April 1936 to the late Erwin and Catherine (Tobin) Fillhouer Nowak. He was the beloved husband of 47 years of Lynn (Grode) Nowak. Father of Michael, Thomas (Jennifer), Patrick & Nancy (Andy Holcomb) Nowak. Grandpa to George, Charlie and Julia. Also survived by many sisters and brothers-in-law, nieces and nephews. Preceded in death by half-sister Patricia George Foley.
Erv was a graduate of West Allis Central (HS), Marquette (BSBA) & UW Whitewater (M.Ed). While working on his undergrad at Marquette, he worked full-time loading and driving newspaper trucks for the Milwaukee Journal. Later, he spent two years in the army as a draftee, stationed in Augsburg and guarding the beer halls of Germany as he liked to say. He even got a glimpse of Elvis who was serving at the same time.
Prior to returning to Wisconsin and working in education, he spent a short time in sales, working for Scott’s Lawn. He was based in New Orleans and traveled throughout the Southeast. He had many stories from these days, most of which were not appropriate to tell in front of his children.
His career in education spanned 34 years in South Milwaukee – as both a 6th grade teacher and math teacher at Parkway for seven years and then as principal of Rawson and Blakewood elementary schools. His philosophy was “do what’s best for the children.” Known to his students as “Mr. Kickball,” Erv was full-time pitcher and refereed the popular lunchtime recess games.
Erv was known for his flawless penmanship, likely the result of all the practice he received penning the thousands of hand-written notes he mailed to each and every student on their birthdays. He spent countless hours writing these notes on index cards, always with a reference to what made that child special and unique. He remembered former students and their families by name, even decades after they had been at one of his schools.
Erv loved sports, especially college football and basketball, and the NFL (Go Pack!). One of his favorite things to do was to watch his kids’ track and cross country meets at Oak Creek High School and UW-Lacrosse. He also enjoyed reading mysteries/thrillers and being active, either by biking, running, or later walking. He often boasted about playing rec league basketball in South Milwaukee until he was 50 and surprising all the twenty-somethings that “the old man could still play.”
One of Erv’s favorite hobbies was washing, waxing and detailing cars for family and friends. He took great pride in doing this – his way of showing appreciation for the people in his life.
Erv was a faithful Catholic and devoted member of St. Matthew Parish in Oak Creek for nearly forty years. He served on St. Matt’s parish council and on the church’s personnel committee, was a member of the Holy Name Society, participated in the Prayer Network, served as a Eucharistic minister, and volunteered at the weekly Bingo Night fundraiser for many years.
Erv and Lynn enjoyed traveling together following his retirement, or it might be more accurate to say Lynn enjoyed traveling, and Erv (a homebody at heart) went along because he loved Lynn. They took river cruises on the Danube and Rhine rivers (“pretty good”), China (“interesting”), Australia/New Zealand (liked it, but would never fly that far again), Hawaii (his fave), Alaska (definitely not his fave), San Diego (to visit Nancy) and Portland, Oregon (to visit his first grandchild).
His grandchildren, George, Charlie and Julia, were the light of his life the past 14 years, and he frequented Minneapolis to spend time with them. He spent a great deal of this time down on the floor playing matchbox cars, dinosaurs, Littlest Petshops and tickle monster. He also spent a fair amount of time (and money) at the St. Louis Park Target doing “grandma and grandpa trips”.
Thanks to all the neighbors and friends who were so generous with their time helping out the last few months, with everything from mowing the lawn to cooking. A very special thanks to Erv’s sister-in-law, Peggy, and brother-in-law, Dennis, who drove up from Texas to provide love, support, assistance (and backrubs) during Erv’s final days.
And thanks most of all to our mother, Lynn, the love of Erv’s life. Forty-seven years of marriage this week. Lynn was his everything. Selfless and strong, she cared for him, comforted him, loved him and acted as his all-around guardian angel. He was lucky to have her and he knew it.
Visitation will be held on Friday, June 13th from 2-4 at St. Matthew’s, 9303 S. Chicago Ave, Oak Creek, with mass of Christian burial at 4. Dinner will be served down in the cafeteria following mass (beer will be served as specifically instructed by Erv). In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to “Smile Train” or St. Matthew Parish.