Kathy Burke Novak passed away at home on Jan. 14 surrounded by her loving husband and family members after an extended illness.
Born on Nov. 16, 1958, the third daughter and middle child of Jack and Nancy Burke, Kathy embodied a true zest for life and found love and joy in all that each day offered. Butte was her childhood stomping ground where she made lifelong friends, including ‘Foles’, who noted, ‘Kathy always had your back if you got in a fight – even a fight with the boys!’ Growing up, Kathy grabbed hold of any activity that sounded fun. She participated in softball, Butte High Purple B’s, and just about everything that could potentially lead to an accident, of which she had many (as evidenced by her right hand stubbed finger).
Kath broke the staunch UM Grizzly mold when she headed to Montana State to play college tennis. As the lone Burke Family Bobcat, she was especially proud of the most recent four Cat Griz football games!
Upon graduation, Kathy moved to Billings where she continued to make friends and make a difference in the world. She worked for Flomark/High Tech Filters for 38 years, and one of her most notable jobs was producing their creative and hysterical company Christmas cards.
It is family lore that several ‘fellas’ proposed to Kath in her younger days, but she held out until she met her true pal and partner in John Novak. Together they shared over 23 years of marital bliss, as they’d both readily admit, ‘Most of the time….’ While that doesn’t seem long enough, Kathy and John truly and fully loved each other more every day. They enjoyed listening and dancing to jazz music, reading, skiing, snow-shoeing, and hiking to back country lakes. Their love for one another was even more evident recently as John cared for Kathy in her final days. They have a beautiful card hanging above their bed which states, ‘Two people who belong together make a world.’
Kathy loved to travel – from Big Sky to Africa – she relished it all, and especially enjoyed catching up with her parents, family and friends in Palm Springs where she and John spent so many happy days. She was the self-designated family photographer and, ‘just one more pic’ led to many family eye rolls and a wealth of invaluable photo memories. Kath notoriously loved her food hot, and always soundly placed herself in the very front of every party’s buffet line, a trait for which she was endlessly teased.
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To say that ‘Aunt Dassie’ did not have children totally misses the point. She and John were pillars of support for their many nieces and nephews, attending weddings and graduations, baptisms and sporting events, and sending handwritten birthday cards filled with dollars to correspond with ages. As the kids unanimously agreed, ‘Dass was not really a second mom, she was more than that. A best Aunt. A best Friend.’ And, ‘We only have happy memories of Kath and John. Not one time have we ever felt less than pure love for and from them both.’
Kathy adored spending time with John’s daughter Ricci and granddaughter Molly (Two Bath a Day Molly Rae), who affectionately dubbed Kath ‘Nana.’ Kathy and John also partnered in the Billings Big Brother program and enjoyed being a part of James Quincy’s life and his maturing into a wonderful young man.
Kathy was preceded in death by her mom Nancy and her in-laws, Charlee Novak and Bill Novak. She is survived by her husband John Novak; father Jack Burke; siblings and their spouses, Cheryl and Don Harris, Mary and Rick Orizotti, John and Stella Burke, Lisa and Tony Orizotti; sister–in-law Sharon Novak; step daughter Ricci and her husband Jason Beck, granddaughter Molly, plus numerous adoring nieces, nephews and friends.
A Mass celebrating Kathy’s life will be held at Saint Patrick’s Church in Butte on Saturday, Jan. 25 at 11 a.m. A second celebration will be held at Tiny’s Tavern in Billings at a time to be announced. Remembrances may be shared at michelottisawyers.com. In lieu of flowers, please send memorials to Eagle Mount or a charity of your choice.
I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. ~ Maya Angelou