By Annette Newcomb
Two area high schools were joined in common grief Monday morning as staff and students learned that each had lost a beloved teacher as the result of a tragic motorcycle crash Sunday afternoon.
For Westosha Central High School, it was the death of German teacher and forensic coach David Novaez, 48. Several miles away – at Union Grove Union High School – students and staff were grieving for the loss of their beloved choral director Kristin Novaez, 36.
The couple, married for about seven years, lived in Wheatland. Both were adventurers at heart, a co-worker said, adding they seldom let the grass grow under their feet. So it was on that beautiful autumn afternoon Oct. 9, the pair set out on their motorcycle for yet another uncharted adventure.
Sgt. Bill Beth of the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department said the Noveazs were traveling north on County Highway P just before 3 p.m. when Ralph Johnson, 20, of Wheatland, pulled out from a stop sign into their path, in his Chevy Blazer.
David Novaez was killed instantly. Kristin Novaez was severely injured, with a severed leg, but was conscious at the scene, asking about her husband. She was taken by Flight for Life helicopter to Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa and underwent two surgeries. It wasn’t enough to save the life of the teacher, who co-workers said lit up a room when she walked in.
“There is a lot of grief,” said Union Grove Superintendent Alan Mollerskov said Monday. “The kids are dealing with it their own way. They laugh, then they cry, and they sing, then they cry some more.”
Mollerskov said there were a number of counselors and area clergy on hand Monday morning for students and staff and said several students had gone home.
The same scene was repeated at Westosha Central High School. Administrator Scott Pierce said staff was called into a special meeting first thing Monday morning, then an announcement was made to students. Counselors were also standing by.
“It’s obvious many staff and students are affected by this,” he said, adding that several students left for the day as well, while others chose to stay and deal with their grief along with classmates.
David Novaez was a retired captain in the U. S. Marine Corps and was referred to as Capt. Novaez by students. Wearing his dress blues, he was the keynote speaker during the school’s Veteran’s Day program last year.
At Union Grove High School Kristin Novaez made an equally favorable impression on students and staff.
“She (Kristin) made music so special. She was so loved by former and current students,” said Mollerskov.
“She had 60 kids in the concert choir and 30 in the chamber chorus. She took those kids everywhere. They have sung at games for the Milwaukee Brewers, the Admirals, at Disneyland, in Germany, Austria, Hawaii. This year they were going to New York City … she was always planning something new for the kids.”
Mollerskov said although Kristin Novaez traveled the world with her students, she also made sure they performed at the nearby veteran’s home.
“They were over there a lot,” he said.
“They were her kids. They didn’t have children of their own. They dedicated their life to the students, they become their kids,” he said. Kristin Novaez was well known in her hometown of Oconto Falls as well. The former Kristin Tielens was crowned Miss Oshkosh in the 1997 scholarship competition. She was fourth runner up in the Miss Wisconsin pageant, held later that same year.
Monday Sgt. Beth said Johnson was cited for failure to yield right of way causing death and failure to yield right of way causing injury. The second citation will be updated to failure to yield right of way causing death, due to the death of Kristin Novaez.
In death, as in life, Kristin Novaez continued giving. Though dealing with grief, her family made arrangements for organ donations.