LANSING, Ill. (April 20, 2023) – Each year in April, the Village of Lansing observes Lansing Fallen Heroes Memorial Day. It falls on April 8, the day that two young men from Lansing lost their lives — in separate years — one while serving his community, the other while serving his country.
Kenneth Novak and Philip Martini
Lansing Police Officer Kenneth Novak, Jr. was shot and killed while investigating a suspicious vehicle on April 8, 1992. LCPL Philip Martini was killed while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province, Iraq while serving with the United States Marine Corps on April 8, 2006.
It’s now been 31 years since Novak passed, and 17 for Martini. Many of those who live in Lansing now were not aware of these events when they occurred, and don’t know the names of the two fallen men. Members of the Lansing Historical Society want to change that.
For the past several years, the Lansing Historical Museum has featured an exhibit honoring the two men in April. It has grown over the years to add items and photos that help tell the story of who these two men were.
“New items were added over the years because we received donations that we felt would make a meaningful contribution to the display,” said Museum Curator Barb Dust. Those donations led to expanding the exhibit to include fallen heroes in other wars, as well.
“For instance, we received many items from the Beuster family when their mother passed away. Ron Beuster was Lansing’s first casualty from the Vietnam War and we felt it is only right to honor these men, too. Then we received the charcoal sketches done by Anna Carroll for the Lansing Veterans’ Memorial, and the sketch of the fallen soldier’s boots and rifle, seemed very appropriate for this exhibit. We learned that many members of the public did not know the meaning of a Gold Star Mother, and so we added a section about that.”
The fallen heroes exhibit leads into other military displays in the museum with additional information, uniforms, and more. It also includes a “Missing Man Table” that is often used in ceremonies and military occasions in honor of those who were Prisoners of War or Missing in Action.
Traditionally, on April 8, the Lansing Historical Museum, which is housed in the lower level of the Lansing Public Library at 2750 Indiana, keeps the museum open for the full day to accommodate extra visitors. This year it was delayed to April 10 due to a shutdown of the library for to electric work on April 8. Throughout the day, people streamed through — some who knew Novak and Martini — and some who had never heard their names.
Among the visitors each year are members of Novak’s family. His mother, Pat, and sister, Kathy Faucault, visited late that morning after visiting Novak’s gravesite and the site in Lansing where he died. They spoke with retired and new members of the Lansing Police Department who stopped by to pay their respects. The crew of LNN also interviewed them for a segment.
“I was impressed with the LNN video,” said Kenneth Novak, Sr. “I thought Pat and Kathy did an outstanding job on sharing their thoughts and the crew did an excelling job in editing in the displays,” he said.
Novak expressed appreciation for the museum making it a priority to host the exhibit each year. “They’re continuing to honor Ken’s memory and are hardworking, consistent, and visible in keeping his memory alive,” he said.
Having such an exhibit is very important, said Dust. “We are very blessed to be living in a free society and can never take that for granted. Officer Novak died keeping us safe from crime and LCPL Martini died defending our country. We want people to honor their sacrifice and yet realize that these were real men who lived right here among us in our village. We want people to reflect on that and be grateful,” she said.
Dust also noted that it takes several people to make the exhibit happen. “We would just like to thank all the Historical Society members who helped set up the exhibit and took turns acting as hosts during the Fallen Heroes Day vigil.”
Visiting the exhibit
The exhibit will remain open through the end of April during regular museum hours of 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Mondays and 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturdays. Those interested in viewing the exhibit outside of those times can call 708-474-7497 to arrange a special tour.
- Lansing honors Officer Kenneth Novak 30 years after his death (April 8, 2022)