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Doctor helped protect workers' eyes

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By Jerry Vondas
Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

A leg injury early in the career of Dr. Joseph F. Novak turned out to be a blessing for men and women who worked in hazardous places, such as steel mills, factories and mines.

Dr. Novak had been a neurosurgeon briefly at Walter Reed Hospital as a first lieutenant in the Army during World War II, but after his injury he switched to ophthalmology.

As an eye safety consultant for U.S. Steel and other industrial organizations, he assessed plants and mines as to potential hazards to the eyes and recommended the type of safety glasses needed.

“On one occasion, my father was invited to visit the mines in Venezuela to guide them on improving their eye safety concerns,” said his daughter Anne Wayne of Burgettstown.

Joseph F. “Facs” Novak of Ligonier, formerly of Mt. Lebanon, a recipient of the 1994 Outstanding Humanitarian Service Award from the American Academy of Ophthalmology, died Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, in Bethlen Home in Ligonier. He was 97.

Dr. Novak's ophthalmology practice spanned a half century, beginning in 1943.

“When the phone rang, even if it was in the middle of the night, he was out the door,” Wayne said.

Born and raised in East Liberty, Joseph Novak was one of three children of John and Gertrude Goodman Novak.

Mr. Novak graduated in 1931 at 15 from Peabody High School in East Liberty. A year later, he enrolled in pre-med at the University of Pittsburgh, where he received his medical degree in 1938.

In 1944, Dr. Novak married his first wife, Carolyn Martin, a petty officer in the Coast Guard.

Dr. Novak was a golfer and a member of the Rolling Rock Club in Ligonier. The Joseph F. Novak Chair in Ophthalmology Research at the University of Pittsburgh is named in his honor.

In addition to his daughter Anne, Dr. Novak is survived by a son, John Novak of Carnegie; daughter, Carolyn “Cennie” Novak of Castle Shannon; four grandchildren; and his second wife, Eve P. Cooper Novak.

He was preceded in death by his first wife, Carolyn Martin Novak, in 1991, and siblings Gertrude Kemper and John Novak.

Friends will be received from 1 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday in Laughlin Memorial Chapel, 222 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Monday in St. Bernard Church.

Friends also will be received from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday in the J. Paul McCracken Funeral Chapel, 144 E. Main St., Ligonier.

Interment will be private.

Jerry Vondas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7823 or jvondas@tribweb.com.

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