Native son: Grandparents

by Charles D Novak
Grandpa and Grandma Gorshe and Dewey Novak

Grandma Novak and baby Dewey (Charlie)

There was a time when grandparents were a major part of the family. It was common to hold a family meeting when a major purchase was being considered. The Grandparents made the final decision.
It seems the whole idea of grandparents has changed through the years. I think the reason might be because people are getting married later in life and don’t start a family until they are in their late twenties or early thirties. In the 1940s and 1950s girls were encouraged to get married after graduating from high school. At that time grandparents were still relatively young and played a huge part in the lives of their families.
I grew up under those conditions and was glad I had the chance to know and love my grandparents. The only exception was Grandpa Novak who died in 1931, ten years before I was born.
Viktor Novak or Victor Novak using the American version was born in Sodrazica, Slovenia in 1882. His wife Angela (Zager)Novak was born in the same town on April 28, 1883. Because of wars and harsh living conditions Victor Novak immigrated to the United States on July 28, 1906 arriving at Ellis Island on August 6.
His wife Angela and young daughter Pauline were not with him at this time due to lack of funds. They arrived in Ely on January 23, 1907.
Victor heard about the Iron Ore Mines in Northern Minnesota from other Slovenian men who had already moved there. He actually found employment that was safer at the Rock Crusher in Ely.
Soon after their arrival Pauline was accidently shot and killed by a local boy playing with a gun. Their next child was a girl and she was named Pauline in memory of her sister.
Along with this article is the original boat ticket issued to Grandpa Novak to come to America. When I went to Ljubljana, Slovenia in October 2009 I brought the ticket with me when I went to the Slovenian Archives Office.
Staff members couldn’t believe what they were seeing. They asked if they could have it and I said “not at this time” so they made at least a dozen copies of this historical piece of paper.
Grandpa Novak died of cancer on August 14, 1931 and was buried in the Ely Cemetery on August 17, 1931. He was 49 years old.
I visited with Grandma Novak as often as I could. She was such a loving and caring person. Unfortunately by the time I came along and befriended her, she lost most of her vision. This didn’t stop her from cooking those delicious Slovenian dishes.
I would watch her cook and bake and marveled at how she did all of this with hardly any sight. She died on June 8, 1955 the year I graduated from high school. I still miss her.
My mother’s parents Charles (Carl) Gorshe and Mary (Zabasnik) Gorshe came from Ribnica, one of the smallest and oldest towns in Slovenia. It dates back to 1220.
It’s located in farming country 19 miles from Ljubljana. The city is surrounded by beautiful forests, I don’t have the dates Grandpa and Grandma Gorshe came to Ely from what was then Yugoslavia.
They raised their family on a farm not far from the Ely city limits. I loved going there and seeing all the animals and eating my grandma’s good food. As they got older, they sold the farm and moved into a house in Zenith Location in Ely. Grandpa Gorshe took a job as maintenance man at the Ely Cemetery.
They were the sweetest couple you would ever meet. Grandma Gorshe passed away first in 1956 and a little over a month later Grandpa Gorshe joined her. A picture of this loving couple and me in my high school graduation costume is attached to this article.
There is also a picture of yours truly as a baby being held by Grandma Novak and a picture of Grandpa Novak with his first two siblings, Victor and Pauline ( his second child with that name).
There is a very close resemblance of Grandpa Novak and his son Charlie Novak. There were four men named Charles in the Novak/Gorshe family.
I grew up in Ely surrounded by some of the most wonderful relatives a person could have. Most are gone now but definitely not forgotten.