Updated: John Novak, 97, World War II Concentration Camp Survivor

John Novak, 97, of Haverhill, passed away on Tuesday, Aug. 22, exactly 68 years after immigrating to the United States from war-torn Poland in 1949. He passed away peacefully surrounded by his family.

Novak was a devoted Catholic and believed in the power of God Almighty. His life reflected his core values of integrity, hard work and devotion to family and his fellow citizens. He lived a full life and, while he met with many challenges, he responded with dignity and strength. He was a concentration camp survivor having escaped twice—the last time being shot and wounded. Following this attack, he was credited with saving an American Army patrol from a Nazi ambush.

Shortly after, he met the love of his life, Zuzanna (Okarma) Novak, and sold his motorcycle to pay for a wedding that would usher in 71 years of marriage. Many say they have the ultimate love story, as they were fully committed to each others’ happiness every day. They had their daughter Manya in Germany and later immigrated to Haverhill where they went to night school to learn English and subsequently sponsored other families to legally emigrate to the United States. After approaching management at the National Continental Paper Company in Haverhill, with a letter in broken English asking for employment, he worked his way up to the position of mill superintendent.

A short time later their son, Frank was born. Their joy with their growing family was met with concern as their son contracted polio as an infant. However, with a resiliency of spirit and determination, they helped each other overcome this series of challenges.

He believed in the power of community on and off the job. He was the former president of the Polish National Home, The Pulaski Club, and a delegate to the Polish National Alliance of America. He was especially proud of being publicly recognized by Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini as a “Super Voter,” never having missed an opportunity to vote since gaining his citizenship.

He often seen walking his Bichon Frise, Ace, of 17 years, who recently passed. He also enjoyed tending his garden and making wine from his personal small backyard vineyard and gifting it to family and friends for holidays and special occasions. He was a steward of honest work and led by example throughout his life.

He leaves his wife, Zuzanna; daughter, Manya Novak-Levin and husband Stan of Alexandria, Virg.; son, Frank Novak and his wife Marie of Haverhill; five grandchildren, Kazia Feinberg and husband Ben and their son Harrison; Jacqueline (Sunshine) Novak, Stasia Levin, Johnathan Novak and Jessica Titus and husband Jeff.

Visitation takes place Friday, Aug. 25, ate Driscoll Funeral Home, 309 S. Main St., Haverhill, from 4 to 7 p.m. Services begin Saturday morning in the funeral home at 10. Funeral Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated in All Saints Church, 120 Bellevue Ave., Haverhill, at 1 a.m. Burial will be at a later date in St. Patrick Cemetery.