By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T

Joseph F. (Joe) Novetsky, 85, who was associated with the Catholic Standard & Times for well over six decades, died Sept. 11, 2010. Cardinal Dennis Dougherty was Archbishop of Philadelphia and Andrew Kemper Ryan was the CS&T editor when he joined the staff. During his years at the paper Philadelphia would have five cardinals and the newspaper, eight editors.

He was born in Shamokin, Pa., and his family moved to Philadelphia in the 1930s and settled in St. Stephen Parish. He joined the Catholic Standard & Times staff Oct. 1, 1943, the year of his graduation from Roman Catholic High School. Since that time until recent years he worked for the CS&T, except for brief stints at secular media, including WCAU radio. {{more}}

“He was rock solid, a living history of the Catholic Standard & Times,” said Cardinal John P. Foley, one of the editors for whom he worked. “We go back together almost 50 years; I started there in the 1960s. He was the sports editor and he was always a gentleman, a faithful, cooperative member of the staff who could be depended on to be there when needed. He was part of the very happy family at the Catholic Standard & Times.”

Although Novetsky never married he doted on the four daughters of his brother, John, according to his niece, Jackie Frey.

“We were his family and he was always there for us,” she said.

In a way, Uncle Joe was the family Santa Claus. “Our biggest gifts when we were young were from him,” she said. “He was a good man, an uncle to everyone he knew and he had strong faith.”

In addition to his brother’s family and his CS&T family, Novetsky had a third family in the Notre Dame fans of Philadelphia, a group that traveled the country and abroad, mostly in conjunction with Notre Dame football games.

“He and my brother Charles ran it,” said Jim Logan, a lifelong friend who was a year behind Joe at Roman Catholic. “In its heyday they went to many games in South Bend and Miami, Fla.; they went to Rome, London, Ireland and Hawaii, they got around. My wife and I went with him to London and Ireland for our 25th anniversary. He led a good life, he was an immaculate dresser and fun to be with.”

Novetsky worked many different beats for the paper, and most recently was part time mostly compiling the popular People and Events column. Four years ago illness dictated his retirement to St. John Neumann Nursing Home in Northeast Philadelphia.

Among the honors given to Novetsky over the years was La Salle College’s Sigma Beta Kappa Award in 1968, the Notre Dame University Alumni Club award in 1961 and awards from Roman Catholic High School in 1956 and 2009.

At press time, his funeral Mass was scheduled to be celebrated by Cardinal Foley at St. John Neumann Nursing Home at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 16, with Father Paul Quinter, another Catholic Standard & Times editor, as concelebrant.

Novetsky is also survived by his nieces Irene Elmer, Mary Jo Nick and Kathy Pritz, as well as great-nieces and nephews and great great-nieces and nephews. Interment will be in Shamokin at a future date.

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.

Remembering Joe

When I started editing for the Standard in 1989, I was all of 25. Joe already had twice as many years in the business to which I was bringing some skills yet little experience. My discussions with Joe yielded a lot of on-the-job training over the next several years.

I knew about the football team of the University of Notre Dame, but I learned that for generations of Catholic men, every Saturday watching Notre Dame was a super bowl. Joe taught me patiently by example that newspaper deadlines are serious but no cause for anxiety and that for an editor, ensuring accuracy is second only to acting as a gentleman at all times.

So much did I respect Joe and his service to the Church that even after health concerns forced him from his editor’s desk, I decided to keep his name on the masthead, the official listing of all staff and contributors to the Standard.

One practical tip that Joe imparted remains with me to this day. One Wednesday afternoon during a long drive from the plant where our newspaper was printed in South Jersey, I fell asleep at the wheel along Route 55. Heading for trees off the shoulder, I awoke, turned the wheel hard and spun out into the middle of the highway. Two lanes of traffic were closing fast, and the car had stalled out. Calmly, I hit the ignition, the car started and I quickly got to the shoulder, and safely made the rest of the drive back to Philadelphia – wide awake. Arriving at the office that afternoon, I told Joe about it, and he told me of a terrible car accident he suffered many years before as he drove back from the Jersey Shore at night.

“Matty,” he said, “when you’re driving long distance, take off your shoes. The bottom of your feet are the most sensitive part of your body. You’ll stay awake.”

Two weeks ago after leaving the Ocean City boardwalk with my family and making the long drive home, I did what I was told. And it worked. Thanks, Joey, for everything. Rest in the peace of Christ.

– Matthew Gambino