John Edward Novinsky – Private First Class, United States Army Department of Defense Dependents School Teacher

John E. Novinsky could have spent his time walking the beach, reading books and traveling. But he was a teacher to the end, which came tragically.


Novinsky, a Korean War veteran who taught in Department of Defense Dependents Schools for 50 years, died Monday afternoon in a head-on car crash near Rota, Spain. He was 74.

“Dr. No,” as many called him, was making the 300-mile drive back from Almeria after visiting his ailing wife, Gloria, when he crashed in Jerez de la Frontera, just a few miles short of his destination.

“He was driving back from there to report for work the next day,” said Thomas Birch, a fellow teacher at David G. Farragut High School in Rota.

Birch and the Rota principal, E.B. Stafford, said they had no further information on what caused the accident.

Short and stocky, Novinsky played guard in college football in the days before players wore face masks, Birch said. He attended all of Rota’s high school games.

Novinsky, who held a doctorate in education, taught with DODDS in Seville, Madrid and Zaragoza, Spain; Munich, Germany; Naples, Italy; England and Bahrain.

“I first met him in 1994 in Bahrain,” Birch said. “I was new, and he was very supportive and mentored me.

“He just loved teaching, loved kids and loved coming to work. I never heard him complain about a kid a single time.

“To meet someone who had taught for 40 years who felt that way about teaching, it was inspirational,” Birch said.

Novinsky taught math and health to seventh-graders at Rota and was also a science teacher for much of his career.

Birch said that while in Bahrain, where he taught courses in English as a second language, two French eighth-graders complained that some of the American teachers talked too fast and were hard to understand.

“I asked them, ‘Who is the teacher who is easiest for you to understand?’ ” Birch said. “They didn’t miss a beat. ‘Dr. No,’ they said with a smile on their face. He was their favorite teacher.

“I was surprised at that. He was more of a traditional, professorial teacher. Nowadays, teachers try to be more interactive.”

Stafford, the Rota principal, used to ask Novinsky why he didn’t retire. He told Stafford “he wanted to give something back.”

“What changes in education he must have seen,” Stafford said. “I wish he’d written a book.”

Novinsky, who is also survived by a son, Victor, was honored Thursday in a memorial service in the school gymnasium. Bible readings were given and the hymn, “Dona Pobis Pacem” (“Give Us Peace”) was sung. His wife asked that donations be made to charities that benefit the physically handicapped.

“He was an outstanding Catholic gentleman,” Birch said. “At times like this it’s a huge comfort. He was very sincere about his worship and not ostentatious.

“I feel like he’s in heaven.”

Private Novinsky was buried with military honors in Arlington National Cemetery on 24 April 2007.

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