By Heather Feswick

Originally published in Neighbours of Halifax South

Debbie and Jack Novack met for the first time after knowing of each other for many, many years. Jack was friendly with her brothers but “never paid much attention to Debbie, since she was several years younger.” When the age spread was no longer an issue, their lives took an entirely different direction. 

“It was not until 1992 that Debbie and I reacquainted, on a flight where I was a passenger, and Debbie a flight attendant” Jack continues. “We began to date in the fall and we soon learned that we had much in common. One thing led to another and we were engaged in February. We got married in August and began a family shortly thereafter. It was an eventful year to say the least.” When prompted to reveal exactly how old he and Debbie are, Jack happily replies that they are, in fact, “ageless.” 

“I have degrees in economics, business and public administration and have held a faculty position at Dalhousie University since 1974. I recently retired from full time employment and accepted a post retirement appointment. During my academic career I worked primarily in the field of extension, focusing on the professional development of senior municipal administrators and politicians. For many years I also taught several graduate courses in the School of Public Administration, the most recent of which was Local Government Finance.” Jack says he was attracted to the field of local government as it is a place where healthy neighborhoods and communities can flourish, through the active participation of citizens in shaping their own future.

Debbie a volunteer with Spencer house, and Jack, who’s held several volunteer positions, feel obliged to give back to the community. “My volunteer work includes several leadership positions with the Beth Israel Synagogue including President of the Congregation; also, I served as branch president for The Canadian Mental Health Association, as Vice Chair of the Nova Scotia Gaming Foundation, board member for the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia and as a volunteer with Northwood Manor for 30 years. Additionally, I served on various professional associations in a leadership position, including the Institute of Public Administration of Canada. I was also very active in Armbrae Academy where all three children attended.” The children in question being Lewis (26), Zachary (24), and Hannah (22).

Retirement has some perks, in that Jack can accommodate the pursuit of a few hobbies. “I read for several hours each day, in order to know what is going on in the world—and why it is going on. This helps me to keep abreast of my field in order to ensure that my teaching is relevant and useful,” he explains. “When it comes to television viewing, I love documentaries and classic movies—I have little appetite for sports or weekly comedies and dramas.”

Jack spends time in the garden and has done most of the work around their house. “I take great pleasure in seeing the fruits of my labour,” he says. “Actually, it’s quite humbling since no matter how hard we try nature always wins!”

The Novacks have instilled in their children the values of scholarship, family, community and faith. “For their young years, they have accomplished much,” Jack reflects. “Lewis graduated with an honours degree in sociology and anthropology from Carleton University, following that with a degree in science in Global Health Policy and Management from Brandeis University. Further, he completed two post graduate certificates from Harvard University. He currently has an appointment as a clinical epidemiologist at Harvard. Zachary completed an honors science degree in earth science from Carleton University and will shortly complete a master’s degree in Public Health in the Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University in Israel. Hannah will graduate in the fall with an honours Bachelor of Science degree in Human Kinetics from the University of Ottawa.” 

All the kids were active in sports, most specially with swimming. They are all certified lifeguards and have used that skill towards summer wages. The trio are also trained First Responders and have volunteered their time at public events. “Lewis was the youngest person in the history of Nova Scotia to be trained and certified in first aid,” Jack points out. “He was ten years old and made all the arrangements to take the courses on his own.”

Zachary was a staff photographer for the Carleton student newspaper; a member of student council, he was head boy in his graduating year at Armbrae Academy. Hannah took a lead role in the charity Save a Child’s Heart and worked with the Sandy Hill Community Centre in Ottawa, working with individuals from disadvantaged populations. Each of the three assumed leadership roles at Camp Kadimah, which is a residential camp nearBridgewater. 

The family had a sense of humour, when it came to pets.

“Although we were not a big pet household, we did have a large fish tank,” Jack relates. 

“We owned a goldfish and decided to name it ‘Gefilta’.” Gefilta fish must have been a pretty pleased piscine type; it lived for more than 12 years!

There were also two cockatiels, named Adam and Evie. “My children called me from the pet store and implored me to buy the pair. Knowing my penchant for a good business opportunity they told me that they were a mated pair and that I could breed them and make money. Every trick in the world could not produce offspring. At long last we learned that Adam and Evie were, in fact, two males—and my hopes for fame and fortune were dashed.”

The Novacks used family vacation time as an opportunity to rest up, but also as a learning opportunity. “Our familytravelled to England, Belgium, Spain, Switzerland, Hawaii, Israel, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and throughout the U.S. and Canada,” Jack says, observing that journeys with kids could get complicated. “I can recall travelling when the children were very young to meet my in-laws in Tucson, Arizona. This meant flying from Halifax to Toronto, and then on to Los Angeles where we stayed overnight. The next day we travelled by car all day to our destination. We loaded the plane with luggage for five, two car seats and a stroller. When I think back, I don’t know how we did it!”

The family moved from Clayton Park to the south end in 1995. “All the things we do and enjoy are on the peninsula,” Jack observes. “Every time I battle the traffic to get on or off the peninsula, I realize how lucky I am to live where I do.”

“I like our neighbourhood because it is very residential and quiet, yet I am very close to all the amenities that Halifax has to offer,” Jack shares. “It’s five minutes by car to Spring Garden Road, and 20 minutes by foot. We’re close to shopping, parks, gardens and recreation. Everything weneed is close by. I also like the history of the community. Every street has a story to tell. I also appreciate the diversity of the architecture and the streetscapes.”

Over the years the Novacks have been the hosts ofneighbourhood parties, and have been hosted at other’s houses. “During Halloween we would place a table of goodies at the end of the street with a sign ‘help yourselves’; then we’d watch from a nearby deck as we sipped wine and ate hors d’oeuvres,” Jack remembers. “Perhaps the most memorable event took place during Hurricane Juan, when we lost electricity for about a week. We all brought our barbecues to the front of our houses and cooked communally.”

Jack’s had a laugh or two with the neighbours, of course, as he illustrates with the following anecdote:

“At one time I was one of the only ones on my street who actually did his own gardening. Many visitors to our house would assume I was the landscaper and would ask if ‘Mr. Novack’ was home. I would reply that I didn’t know – I was just the gardener. But, before they left, I told them the truthand we would enjoy a good laugh together.”

Finally, Jack concludes with a note to his neighbours.

“The strength of our community is the sum total of the individual contributions that we all make,” he notes, recognizing that each has unique abilities and talents. When it comes to making the south end a neighbourhood that all can benefit from, he says, “Everyone should contribute in a way and at a time that is appropriate for them.”

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