Pauline Hazel Novotny, 84, of rural Swisher, died peacefully at home on Monday, April 1, 2013, surrounded by her family. She lived a vibrant and happy life, full of laughter and simple joys. Funeral Mass was held April 5 at St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church, Cedar Rapids by Father Christopher Podhajsky. Burial was in Blain Cemetery, rural Swisher. Pauline was born to Jerry and Hazel Stepanek on Aug. 15, 1928, on a farm about a half-mile from where she passed on. She had graduated from Shueyville High School when a handsome young man caught her eye. Or rather, she caught his, so much so that when he passed by in his 1931 Chevy coupe, he had to come back around once again and chat for a bit.
She married that man, Joseph Novotny, on June 12, 1948. They spent the next 64 years of their lives together.
After graduating from the Iowa State Teacher’s College, Pauline taught in a one-room schoolhouse for three years before becoming a full-time homemaker. It was easy for her to be a mom. Pauline was the type of mother usually only seen on TV, a June Cleaver in her own right, she did everything she could for her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
But Pauline may have been the most famous for her cherry kolaches. Right behind that were the care packages she always sent to her loved ones. She personalized them, making sure to send each one his or her own favorite treat, carefully placing the cookies in old Pringles containers to ensure they did not get crushed in the mail.
Pauline loved the outdoors and was often found working the land, hair covered with a scarf and garden gloves on her hands. One of her favorite places was the Stepanek family farm, where she spent time as a child and helped care for as an adult.
After her afternoon of mowing, she could be seen sitting under the apple tree on the hill, sipping a Diet Pepsi and commenting on the breeze that was always there. She grew her own vegetables and canned everything from green beans to homemade tomato soup. Her relish was so good that her adult granddaughters would steal jars for their own pantry. And potato salad is not potato salad without her pickles. Her love of outdoors was most evident in her showcase flower gardens. She loved her irises and petunias, but did she ever hate weeds.
Though she would not hesitate to take out even the smallest weed, Pauline was a great environmentalist having been a member of the Izaak Walton League for more than 50 years. A trailblazer in her own right, she became the first woman president of the state chapter. She served on the state board of directors and when she passed, she held the position of national director.
To call Pauline active is more than an understatement. When her children were young, she volunteered for school activities, including noodle soup suppers and a fundraiser to send her son’s high school band to Vienna, Austria. She was a lector and Eucharistic minister at St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church and was the current Shueyville High Alumni banquet president. She was a 4-H leader for many years and also belonged to the Farm Bureau homemaker group.
A child of the Great Depression, Pauline wasn’t one to sit around. But no matter how hard she was working, she always took an afternoon break to watch her stories.
Pauline was a seamstress, making everything from suits for her son, Lynn, to bridesmaid dresses for neighbors, to Easter dresses for her grandchildren.
And Pauline loved to tease. She was the rare person who could take it as much as she could dish it out. Never without a laugh or a smile, she claimed to have never been stressed a day in her life.
One year, her husband Joe brought home a tent. She was adamant that she wasn’t going camping. But when Joe told her she could stay home, she quickly changed her tune. Pauline was not about to stay home and miss out on anything. She grew to love camping and was proud of having visited all 50 states. Even in her last month of life, she insisted on sleeping on the couch all day so she would not miss a thing.
Pauline loved to decorate for every holiday and no matter the season, her home looked like a holiday display. Her attic brimmed with boxes and boxes of decorations. She always said Christmas was her favorite but when Easter rolled round, she loved that the best, and then fall, and then Halloween and then Thanksgiving. Really, she loved them all and always worked to make them special for her family.
A true Hawkeye fan, she started going to games when her son played football. She and Joe have been season tickets holders since then. She was always animated, either excited or angry, sometimes turning the TV off if they were playing too badly.
Pauline’s illness took her entire family by surprise. She had been the center of their lives, the light in the room that everyone flocks to. That has never been so evident as by the stream of family, friends and friends who are life family who flooded her mail with cards, lit up her phone with well wishes and stocked her fridge with homemade foods to keep the family going.
Pauline is survived by her loving husband, Joe Novotny; her daughter, Cheryl Anne Hannah of Waterloo; her son, Lynn (Cynthia) Novotny of Coto de Caza, Calif.; her granddaughters, Traci Hannah-Cauchi of Cedar Rapids, Nikole (Faraji) Hannah-Jones of New York City, Michele Hannah de Guiterrez of Waterloo and Jessica Novotny of The Woodlands, Texas; and great-granddaughters, Shabbrea Tooson, Briana Tooson, Temiah Tooson and Najya Hannah-Jones.
Pauline was an amazing woman. She will be deeply missed by all who were blessed to know her.
Memorials can be sent to the Izaak Walton League or St. Wenceslaus church.