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Ken Novak

Ken Novak

Korean War Veteran, Basketball Coach and Collector

Born: Crosby-Ironton, MN, United States
Heritage: European American

Treat others as you would like to be treated and mean it. Grow and be the best you can in all endeavors. By the way we are going to make mistakes. Forgive. The hardest thing to say is “I’m sorry” and mean it, to apologize and mean it. People can tell. Remember this, in your short life, by the time of high school there is going to be someone who will pass on. We think it will happen to the other guy. Always be kind, generous and be the best you can be. That is easy to say but hard to do.

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HONOR SONG LYRICS

The Truth Never Lies
(Honoring Ken Novak)

The smartest man I ever knew
Was my Dad, I’m telling you
My father he was kind.
My father he was tough.
When I did great.
Wasn’t good enough.

Oh me! Oh my! The truth never lies

My father came to this country
From Europe in ‘23
After his Dad was shot down
Coming home from war
to his little town

Oh me! Oh my! The truth never lies

I grew up on Balkan Street
A lot of my friends could not speak
English at all – but I did
That’s all we spoke at home as a kid

Oh me! Oh my! The truth never lies

The rich folks swam in their own lake
While the working folk stayed up late
Working in the mines.
In them open pits
That’s where we swam.
New immigrants.

Oh me! Oh my! The truth never lies

My father drank, but I never did
When I grew old or as a kid
My father said, “Get your degree.
Don’t work in the mines, just like me.”

Oh me! Oh my! The truth never lies

Played basketball. Go my degree.
Drafted to work at Walter Reed.
Korean War. Helping amputees.
So many folks worse off than me

Oh me! Oh my! The truth never lies

When I got out I then found
A teaching job in Hopkins town
In the High School I taught right here
Where I coached for fifty-seven years

Oh me! Oh my! The truth never lies

Dad always worked, so he never saw
Me ever play basketball
That’s how it was way back when
Sure wish I could do it all again

Oh me! Oh my! The truth never lies

Always hug your mom and dad
Always be the best you can
Always forgive. Apologize.
Always give thanks to be alive

Oh me! Oh my! The truth never lies

Words & music by Larry Long with Karin McKenzie’s 3rd grade class of Eisenhower Elementary School in Hopkins, Minnesota.

© Larry Long 2008 /BMI

Ken Novak

Korean War Veteran, Basketball Coach and Collector

My name is Ken Novak. I was born in 1929. I grew up in Crosby-Ironton near Brainerd. My father came from Europe. He came to this country in 1923, and had a 5th grade education. He had to quit school to farm with his five brothers and a sister. I am very proud of my father. The more education you have the smarter you’re suppose to be, but the smartest man I knew was my father.

I grew up on a street called Balkan street. Very few spoke English. My parents spoke English because they wanted to be Americanized. What we had was a melting pot of people from Europe. It was the greatest place in the world to grow up.

During the Depression there were no jobs. I started working in 5th grade. My brother and I would get up at five in the morning and go on the train tracks, hauling coal from the mines.

I was called into the Korean War. I went to Fort Sheridan and then to Maryland and I played ball and went to Walter Reed Hospital for two years as a basketball coach. I was a medic. A medic is the guy who manages to keep you from dying. I worked with amputees and paraplegics.

I tried out for the Minneapolis Lakers. I was sent to Baltimore and after 30 days I was cut. I went home and saw my daughter Sherry for the first time. I’ll never forget the feeling I had. I started as a basketball coach in 1955. St. Cloud State offered me the job as head coach at 24. I stayed a year and then I went to Hopkins. It was a city of down-to-earth people. I like the diversity it has today. Someone asked "How can you coach 57 years?" It’s because of the type of kids I’ve had. They made it easy. I wanted to stay young and hopefully help people change their lives and grow up to be the people I would have liked to be and I have.

I have always been a collector. I was a coin collector. I used to collect watches and sold them when I needed money. I chose clocks because they are all so different. I had up to 200 clocks with one 100 years or older. I was on The Antiques Road Show for my clocks.

I never needed a lot. My wife and children are so good to me. My wife says just take it and be grateful. There’s such a thing as the joy of giving. When you give you really feel great.

I had a daughter who passed away three years ago. I didn’t think I could survive. I experienced many sad things in my life, but nothing like that. Life is hard and life has challenges. I am blessed so many times over and I want to stick around for a long time. I am blest with the grandchildren. They’ve made me a better person.