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The Beatles sang “Yellow Submarine,” Lyndon Johnson was President, and 16-year-old John Novak signed up as a Hopewell Fire Department volunteer.

Wednesday, Dec. 20 marks Novak’s 50th anniversary of service with the Hopewell Fire Department and Emergency Medical Unit, and he has no plans to stop anytime soon.

“I just like the feeling of helping somebody,” he said.

Novak has doused flames, pulled people out of burning buildings and car wrecks, saved lives with CPR, and led the department as chief in the 1980s and early 1990s. He has responded to about 6,000 emergency calls and counting.

Novak followed his parents into the Hopewell Department. His sons followed their parents in, too: Novak is married to Rose Novak, a past Department President and EMU Chief who remains active with the Ladies Auxiliary. Their son John Novak Jr. runs with Flagtown Fire/Rescue in Hillsborough, and son Joe is the current Hopewell Fire Department Chief.

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John Novak Sr., who is now chief engineer and driver training officer, jokes about having to take orders from his kid, but he is extremely happy to do so.

“I’m very proud,” he said. “Other chiefs will say to me, ‘He’s doing a hell of a job,’ and I say, ‘Yup, he is. He’s my boy!”

The pride goes both ways. “It really puts me in awe sometimes,” Hopewell Chief Joe Novak said. “When everybody works together, and I’m there alongside my dad and the other volunteers who I consider my brothers and sisters, and we just helped somebody out of a fire or did a CPR save? There’s not much you can do that’s more valuable.”

There is only one other known Hopewell Fire Department & EMU volunteer who reached this milestone: the late Mahlon “Murph” W. Riley, who was chief in the late 1950s.

John Novak Sr. will be honored for his 50 years of service at the fire department banquet in February.

Hopewell Fire Department and the other volunteer fire and first aid units of Hopewell Valley all need more volunteers. Training is free. Find out more at www.ProtectHopewellValley.com.

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