Thursday, November 11, 2010

Joan Chambers Novak



It's Armistice Day, and in a few minutes it will be 11/11, 11:00, and next year it will be 11/11/11/11:00. It's meant to be a day of peace and so it is with my mom who passed yesterday morning just as Venus was rising in the dark early morning sky around 5:20 AM. She was 86. A perfect number to go out on. 

With a few changes and edits, here is the obit that will likely appear in the newspapers:  

Joan Chambers Novak passed away peacefully at her home on November 10, 2010 surrounded by her family. She was born on February 14, 1924 to Frank M. and Gwenford J. Chambers in Canadian, Texas and grew up in Canadian. After graduating from Canadian High School, Joan attended Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri.  

Joan married Jack Osborne during World War II and followed him to different military bases until he was deployed overseas in the Pacific theater. They divorced in 1965. Joan was a partner in the Fatheree Insurance Agency and managed their office in Canadian, Texas. 

 In 1970, Joan moved to Austin and joined the Barclay Insurance Agency. In 1972, Joan moved to Lakeway and became a founding shareholder in the Lakeway National Bank. Joan married John Murch in 1974, and he preceded her in death in June 1987. Joan married Charles J. Novak on July 6, 1990.  

Joan was an active member of the Lakeway Church and served on the Board of Trustees. She was an avid tennis player and golfer and bridge player. She and Charlie traveled extensively.  

Joan was preceded in death by her brother John Stanley Chambers and her granddaughter Alexis Hope Osborne. Joan is survived by her husband Charles J. Novak of Austin; son Frank Osborne and wife Janie of Dallas, Texas; son Michael James Osborne of Austin, Texas; step-son Andrew Milman and wife Meryl of Equiesheim, France; sister Frances Cody of Sedona, AZ; grandchildren Erin Osborne Piccagli, Ryan Osborne and wife Susanne, and Solomon Osborne; great grandchildren Sara Katherine and James Farmer, Estee Piccagli, Reese and Sydney Osborne, and Alexander Deems Osborne; and many other family members.  

Memorial services will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, November 19, 2010 at the Lakeway Church, 2203 Lakeway Blvd. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Lakeway Church, The Alzheimer’s Association or Hospice of Austin. Obituary and guestbook available online at  

Anyone who knew my mom would find this to be a "just the facts" Joe Friday version of the truly remarkable life of Joan Chambers Osborne Murch Novak. She was a pretty good basketball player, making the all-district team in Canadian as a senior. She could beat me at tennis well into her fifties. Thirty years ago, when family was spending the holidays in Hawaii, she and the Admiral beat Dee and I at doubles consistently. Although she played tons of golf, she never quite got the hang of it. 

Well into her seventies, she would jump on her little trampoline every morning, often calling me on the phone to talk in her heavy breathing work-out voice , her mind blasting on the induced flow of endorphines and her natural bounty of energy and enthusiasm. 

Once on another vacation on the Texas coast, we found ourselves in a named Tropical Storm. Instead of leaving, we stayed, and as the storm made landfall, She and I walked the beach marveling and enjoying the power and glory of at all. It was that night that she told me that she sees God everywhere. I think it was also that trip where she complained about her arms and shoulders being very sore. I reminded her that the day before, she had been walking on her hands on the beach, showing off, not to be outdone by her 33 year old son. 

On another trip to Hawaii, we were having a Home Ranch Creek meeting with much of the Chambers Clan, and we felt a giant boom. Joan offered that a big fat lady had moved in upstairs yesterday. In the next second, the room began to shake and move like Chubby Checkers doing the twist. We were in the beginning of a 7.5 earthquake. We hardly lost a beat. 

Mom had a great sense of optimism that was covered in realism. Once, while recovering from a bout with cancer, someone sent her a book about "when bad things happen to good people". She didn't get it. She saw it as a thing...a thing that she would deal with, which she did. 

When we were young, she would bake bread, and Frank and I would deliver it to the lucky folks in Pampa, where we lived from the mid-fifties to the late sixties. Before that, we lived in Amarillo, where I was born, and before that, we lived for a short time in Montgomery, Alabama until my dad, Jack, was called up to serve in the Korean War. As an decorated Navy aviator who knew how to land on an aircraft carrier, he was a valuable asset to this nation's fighting potential. Joan was alway busy, baking bread, selling cards, booking family portrait sessions with Gittings, selling real estate, insurance, and her infectious love of life. 

And although we went to Church every Sunday (and some Wednesdays) she always had time to party and party big she did. It wasn't that long ago, that she and Charlie would still fill up the big van with friends, food, drink, tables, and candlelabras and join the other fans in the parking lot at UT's Memorial Stadium for a full day of sport and fun. For years, on the Fouth of July in Lakeway, we would have to decorate the golf cart and the grandkids and participate in the annual parade down Lakeway Drive. Finally one year, we won the contest for "best golf car float" and the pressure eased a little. 

 Joan went along with me and helped me early on in the Wind business. Initially, she didn't think that I was being that realistic and she told me so.... over and over and over. Then, as she began to realize that this renewable energy business thing was going to fly, she changed her tune. "You should meet my son", she would say to her bridge club or party friends, " I used to tell him that he can't change the world, but I was wrong. He is." 

I told that story the other night during my vision dinner speech in San Antonio after I had learned that my mom had stopped eating and drinking earlier that morning. She had been in her own private Idaho for the last five years or so, slowly falling into the fog of the dementia du jour of our time. She had not recognized me for four years at least. But that didn't really matter. In my visits to her during these latter years, I would bring foot butter and and rub her hands and feet. When I stopped, she would say, "don't stop". That was good enough for me. 

For eight years, Mom was loved and cared for by Rosie and Carmen and others until she finally did stop. 

Having straightened her blankets and pillows and dressed her bed with a big red flower clipped from the back and some really fragrant yellow wild flowers from the park out front, I sat with her as the heat slowly left her body. 

For it was her light rejoining the universe. 

And what a great light it was. 

And in the fullness of things... Still is

Bye Bye Mom


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