Lansing Historical Society honors fallen heroes with display

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Fallen Heroes
LCPL Philip J. Martini (left) and Officer Kenneth Novak, Jr. were both Lansing men killed in the line of duty.

Display debuted on Lansing Fallen Heroes Memorial Day, honors Officer Kenneth Novak and LCPL Philip Martini

By Quinton Arthur

LANSING, Ill. (April 10, 2021) – The Lansing Historical Society debuted the Fallen Heroes display in the basement of the Lansing Library on Thursday in honor of Lansing Fallen Heroes Memorial Day.

In a proclamation in late March, Lansing Mayor Patty Eidam named April 8, 2021, as Lansing Fallen Heroes Memorial Day. According to the proclamation, this day is “to recognize and remember the sacrifices of Officer Kenneth Novak, Jr., LCPL Philip J. Martini and all those lost in the line of duty protecting the citizens of Lansing and of our country.”

Fallen Heroes display

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The Fallen Heroes display at the Lansing Historical Society has memorabilia from each man’s life, donated from family and other sources. Some of the items in the interactive exhibit include scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, and video and audio components. It tells the story of each of the men’s lives from childhood to their final call of duty. The two men died exactly 14 years apart.

Fallen Heroes
The Fallen Heroes display will be open during upcoming Saturdays from 9 a.m. – noon. (Photo: Quinton Arthur)

Officer Kenneth Novak

On April 8, 1992, Officer Kenneth Richard Novak was fatally shot while on assignment. He worked as a full time police dispatcher, paramedic, and part-time police officer.

To honor Officer Novak, Pat Novak — Novak’s mother — and Kathy Faucault — Novak’s sister — attended the debut. According to Pat, Novak’s aspirations to be a police officer were evident since his youth. Influenced by his uncle, Chicago police officer Erwin Klimaszewksi, Novak’s path to the academy was clear.

“He would ride his bike and chase kids and say, ‘You’re speeding, you have to slow down,’” reminisced Pat.

Fallen Heroes
Kenneth Novak’s badges and pins are on display as part of the Fallen Heroes display at the Lansing Historical Society. (Photo: Quinton Arthur)
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Faucault remembers that shortly after Officer Novak died, a man came to their door and explained that Novak saved his life when he was paramedic on a heart attack call. Faucault also remembered when Novak was on call and saved his former mail carrier.

“It’s a small world. It’s just it’s neat to see how many lives he has touched outside of just our family,” says Faucault.

LCPL Philip Martini

On April 8, 2006, LCPL Philip John Martini was killed in action while on patrol during Operation Iraqi Freedom after enlisting in the Marine Corps in 2003. In a statement to The Associated Press, Anthony Martini — Philip’s brother — said Philip spent a few months on a tsunami relief assignment in southeast Asia before serving in Iraq for five months.

President Woodrow Wilson coined the term “Gold Star Mother” to recognize mothers who have lost children serving their country. In 1936, Gold Star Mothers’ Day became an official holiday on the last Sunday of September. Laura Martini — LCPL Martini’s mother — is respected with the honor. In 2015, actor and musician Gary Sinese made a $15,000 donation on behalf of the Gary Sinese Foundation to the Lansing Veterans Memorial at the Lansing Municipal Airport and embraced Martini.

A photo of actor and musician Gary Sinese embracing Laura Martini, a gold star mother, in 2015. (Photo: Quinton Arthur)

“Telling their stories”

The display was curated by Barbara Dust, member of the Lansing Historical Society. Some of her other duties include caring for the artifacts and cataloguing the items.

Dust’s roots in the historical society started in her youth, with her dad being the president and mother serving as the secretary. Her love for history extends to her personal life as her husband Rich taught history at TF South. After serving as president for one year, Dust decided that wasn’t her passion, but exhibit curation was. For the past decade, she has curated displays on various items and exhibits, such as holiday trees from around the world and wedding dresses.

For the Fallen Heroes display, the exhibit was more personal for Dust. Both Officer Novak and LCPL Martini attended Nathan Hale Elementary school where Dust was a teacher. She was close acquaintances with Pat Novak who was a librarian at the school. LCPL Martini was also in the same class as Dust’s daughter.

Fallen Heroes
Photo collages of both Martini’s and Novak’s lives are on display. (Photos: Quinton Arthur)

“To me, this is the way we best remember them is by telling their stories, not just how they died,” says Dust.

As more items are donated, Dust is appreciative of the space of the Lansing Library and wants to continue letting people know about the Lansing Historical Society. On April 26, the Lansing Historical Society will host a Zoom event with the Illinois Humanities Rhodes Scholars speaker Bureau. It will focus on family heirloom recipes from the Illinois State Fair. The event will include an online shareable cookbook.

“We want to make our presence known in the community and share Lansing’s history. It’s not just in the distant past, even for all the newcomers that have come to Lansing, you are now part of the story,” Dust said.

Though both men met the end of their service, the legacy they left continues to impact the community of Lansing.

The Lansing Historical Society is located in the lower level of the Library Library at 2750 Indiana Avenue. The Fallen Heroes display will be available during open hours during the next month, on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon.

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