Ceremony and symbolism mark Novak visitation and funeral

by Melanie Jongsma

LANSING, Ill. (June 10, 2019) – It was Frank Novak’s stepdaughter Karan Nondorf and his niece Denise Cox who specifically asked him what his funeral wishes might be. His 39 years of service with the Lansing Fire Department gave him the right to a firefighter’s funeral though he had retired in 1990. “He decided that’s what he wanted,” said Nondorf.

So after Novak’s death on May 31, 2019, they let Lansing Fire Chief Chad Kooyenga know that Frank Novak wanted a firefighter’s funeral. Kooyenga and the brotherhood of firefighters in Lansing and beyond took care of the details.

Visitation (Sunday, June 9, 2019)

The Novak visitation began at 3:00pm on Sunday, June 9, and a casket guard was posted according to the ceremonial proceedings of the Firefighters Honor Guard. The guard was changed every 15 minutes throughout the visitation:

The ceremony involves a series of four-second ceremonial salutes, and two right turns so that the reliever never turns his back on the casket. The reliever stands at attention until the guard and the escort have exited the room, and then takes the parade rest position.

Firefighter Jeremy Taylor is a member of the AFFI (Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois) Honor Guard, and he coordinated the firefighters who volunteered to serve as casket guards throughout the visitation and provided instructions about the ceremony. The volunteers included members of the Lansing Fire Department as well as the broader firefighting community.

Chief Sam Hunter is a member of the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association as well as a chaplain. He was one of the volunteers who served as casket guard. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Mayor Patty Eidam (in black) was among the visitors who paid respects. At the Village Board meeting earlier in the week, Eidam had paid tribute to retired Assistant Fire Chief Novak and said, “I have fond memories of Frank as a mentor, friend, and fellow paramedic.” (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Final Bell Ceremony

The visitation culminated at 6:00pm with some pastoral words of encouragement from Tim Nondorf, Novak’s grandson, who is also a Catholic priest.

Father Tim Nondorf, Novak’s grandson, led a brief meditation and prayer near the end of the visitation on Sunday. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Following a closing prayer, Mayor Eidam and all the firefighters at the visitation performed the traditional ceremonial walk through, walking past the casket and honoring Novak with a final salute:

Lansing Fire Chief Chad Kooyenga then led the Final Bell Ceremony, a tradition at a firefighter’s funeral:

Throughout most of history, the life of a firefighter has been closely associated with the ringing of a bell. As he began his tour of duty, it was the bell that started the shift. Throughout the day and night, each alarm was sounded by a bell, which called him to duty and to place his life in jeopardy for the good of his fellow man. And when the call had ended, and the alarm was completed, it was the bell that rang three times to signal the end.

And now our brother Frank Novak has completed his task, his duties well done, and the bell rings three times followed by a pause, three times followed by a pause, and three times in memory of and in tribute to his life and his service.

From left: Chief Sam Hunter, Deputy Chief John Grady, Chief Chad Kooyenga, and Honor Guard member Jeremy Taylor pay their final respects to retired Assistant Fire Chief Frank Novak. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Novak’s Chief helmet will be donated to the Lansing Fire Department, per the wishes of his stepdaughter Karan. “It should stay with the town he served,” she said. “His heart was here.” (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Funeral (Monday, June 10, 2019)

The Lansing Fire Department made special arrangements to honor Chief Novak on the day of his funeral. Novak had served at Fire Station 2 (which is now known as Station 30), so Truck #31 was positioned at the station with its aerial ladder extended. Truck #43 from the South Holland Fire Department was then positioned on Chicago Avenue with its ladder extended to meet the other. When a firefighter dies in the line of duty, the aerial ladders are crossed, but for other deaths the ladders simply touch, symbolizing a bridge to the next life.

Before the funeral service, preparations are made at Station 30. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Firefighters from the South Holland Fire Department position their truck so the extended aerial ladders can touch over Chicago Avenue. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
The aerials are positioned and ready for the procession that will follow the funeral service. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Meanwhile at Schroeder-Lauer Funeral Home, Engine 30 is decked in bunting and positioned to lead the procession. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Current and retired Lansing firefighters serve as pallbearers. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Fire departments are structured in a paramilitary manner, and the influence of the military can be seen in the ceremonies. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Honor Guard member Jeremy Taylor (left) aligns the pallbearers and gives them final instructions before processing to St. Ann Catholic Church. The six pallbearers are (from left) retired Lieutenant Peter Chmura, retired Lieutenant Beth Musser, retired Assistant Chief Michael Winters, retired Assistant Chief Tom Coster, Lieutenant Ray Wagner, and Lieutenant Keith Zigterman. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

The procession rode in silence down Ridge Road to St. Ann Catholic Church. Engine 30 led the way with lights flashing:

The Mass of Christian Burial included all the elements of a traditional mass, and participation by members of Frank Novak’s family added special meaning. Father Tim Nondorf (Novak’s grandson) served as officiant, and grandsons Joe Nondorf and Jared Yates each did a reading. Other family members played other roles in the service.

Father Tim Nondorf (Novak’s grandson) served as officiant of the Mass of Christian Burial. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
The Presentation of the Gifts was performed by Amanda Yates (granddaughter), Lucus Nondorf (great grandson), Felicia Yates (great granddaughter), and Sarah Yates (great granddaughter), accompanied by an altar boy from St. Ann. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
The great grandchildren joyfully return to their seat after being allowed to participate in the service. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Father Tim Nondorf blesses the elements. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Father Tim Nondorf encouraged all congregants to participate—Catholics were welcome to receive the host, and nonCatholics were invited forward for a blessing. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Participating in a new tradition helped make her great grandfather’s funeral a memorable experience. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
The Yates family happily received the blessing and returned to their seat. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Father Tim conducts the final commendation. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
The pallbearers stand in formation while the American flag is draped again over the casket. Novak was a World War II Army veteran as well as a firefighter. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
The pallbearers prepare for the final procession. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Under the aerial ladders at Fire Station 30 on Chicago Avenue, Lansing and South Holland firefighters await the procession. Known as Fire Station 2 until recently, Frank Novak served there for 39 years. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

On the way to Holy Cross Cemetery in Calumet City, Illinois, the funeral procession, led by Engine 30, passed the station where Novak served Lansing for 39 years. Immediately following the fire engine with lights silently flashing were Lansing Fire Chief Chad Kooyenga, Lansing Deputy Chief John Grady, Lansing Deputy Chief Mike Tempelman, and Hazel Crest Fire Chief Samuel Hunter. The hearse slowed under the aerial ladders, and firefighters in full turnout gear gave a final salute:

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