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Joyce B. Novak

November 15, 1929 ~ May 9, 2019 (age 89)


Joyce B. Novak; November 15, 1929 - May 9, 2019 of Annisquam, Gloucester, Massachusetts

Joyce was born to parents Sidney and Lillian Borgeson near Worcester, MA, on November 15,1929, just five weeks after the Black Thursday stock market crash of 1929 that initiated the Great Depression. As the only surviving child after many miscarriages, her parents named herJoyce, and her mother always called her “Joyous” and “Joy”.

Her early life was in a happy home near what was then the edge of Rome, New York, where photos show Joy and her mother playing in the fields near the house, and exploring nearby lakes. Joy’s father, an engineer and inventor, designed and built the little girl a counterbalanced rotating swing device in the old canal bed behind the house. Pictures of Joy’s early life also prove that her notorious love of ice cream was, indeed, lifelong. As a child, Joy frequently visited her mother’s Russian grandparents in Worcester, where her grandfather ran a theater, and Joy could watch as many movies as she wished.

Unfortunately, at age eight, little Joy lost her wonderful mother in a tragic gas stove accident, a trauma Joyce carried throughout life. She was subsequently raised primarily by her father and her beloved, lively, spitfire aunt, Irene “Bubbles” Borgeson, with whom she remained very close until “Auntie Bubbles” death in the early 1980’s. After graduating from high school in Westfield, NJ, Joyce went on to attend Pembroke College (the women’s college associated with Brown University, later absorbed into Brown), where she met Richard “Dick” Novak, who was attendingBrown University on the G.I. Bill after fighting in WWII in Europe. They married on June 16, 1951 and went on to have four children and uncountable adventures together, and had been married nearly 68 years at the time of her death.

Joyce was an intrepid mover and shaker. Through Dick’s business transfers and also, later on, hers and Dick’s love for new “digs”, she moved an extensive household (which, for many of her years, included four children, assorted pets, and a collection of boats, vehicles and devices of indeterminate vintage) from across town to up to halfway across the country, and once across a sea, for a total of twenty one household moves during her married life. Places she moved to included Gloucester, Massachusetts (repeatedly), Illinois, New Jersey, Florida, and St. John US Virgin Islands, where she even lived on a boat. In January 2019, they had relocated from Gloucester to the Peconic Landing retirement community in Southold NY, in order to be near their eldest daughter Chris.

Yet Joyce always felt most at home in, loved, and whenever possible returned to, Gloucester’s historic coastal village of Annisquam, located on Cape Ann, Massachusetts. Joyce and Dick first discovered Cape Ann in 1959, and lived in Annisquam far longer than anywhere else. Even when they were residing elsewhere, Joyce and Dick always returned to Annisquam in summer, with their most recent year-round return in 2012. Annisquam was Joyce’s true home, in every way.

Along the way, and everywhere she lived, Joyce became a champion for obtaining services for her disabled younger son Tom and those like him, starting out in an age when the ADA, Special Education, and rights of the disabled were as yet unknown. This included fighting for special education inclusion in the 1960s so that Tommy could attend public school along with his brother and sisters. She remained an advocate for his rights and services until her declining health rendered her unable to continue.

Joyce was proud to also be the descendant of Swedish immigrants who settled in rural Minnesota and South Dakota, and she cried all through “The Immigrants” miniseries back in the 1970’s. At the same time, she could, and did, also shout “bloody murder” (to put it politely) while watching hockey and football games, of which she was an avid fan. A lifelong competitive athlete, she was an accomplished tennis player and golfer who won many tournaments, and was also a skier and waterskier. Joyce was very social and loved having a large circle of friends, and always managed to find new friends wherever she went. She was always the life of the party! She often came up with very clever and funny themes and games, invitations, props, and refreshments. Joyce was an artist to the core, and her creative side was shown everywhere from her beautiful Wyethstyle original watercolor paintings (recently on display in a show at Peconic Landing) to her love for decorating often painting furnishings herself in creative ways, and even down to her children’s unique birthday cakes and the witty Christmas cards she would design and create. She loved to plant and maintain flower gardens, and late in her life, one of her biggest joys was to sit near her flower gardens, watching the flowers and birds.

She was predeceased by her mother in 1938, her father in 1955, and her beloved “Auntie Bubbles” in 1983. At her side when she passed away were her beloved husband Dick and her eldest daughter Chris, who was her devoted primary family caregiver at the end of her life. She is survived by husband Richard “Dick” Novak; daughter Christine Novak (wife Venetia Hands) of Orient, NY; her oldest son Richard S. “Rick” Novak ( wife Peggy Novak) of Sherborn, MA ; her very special son Thomas “Tommy” Novak of Gloucester, MA ; daughter Lisa deBurlo (partner Gilbert Frayer), of Taos, New Mexico ; granddaughter Kristin David (husband Chris David) of Malden, MA ; grandsons Steven Novak of Charlestown, MA, Winn deBurlo of Denver, Colorado, and Robert deBurlo (partner Vittoria Totaro) of Taos, New Mexico; and many, many friends of all ages.

A memorial service will be held on Friday, June 21st. 2 p.m. at Annisquam Village Church, 820 Washington St. Gloucester, MA;  A reception will follow. 

In lieu of flowers, donations will be appreciated to Northeast ARC, Development Office 1 Southside Road. Danvers, MA 09123 or online at  Please be sure to mention in Memory of Joyce B. Novak in the comment line.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Joyce B. Novak, please visit our floral store.


Memorial Service
June 21, 2019

2:00 PM
Annisquam Village Church
820 Washington St.
Gloucester, MA 01930

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