Joseph H. Novak Jr.

CAPE ELIZABETH – Joseph H. Novak Jr. of Cape Elizabeth, longtime Portland public schoolteacher, world traveler, amateur adventurer, loving husband, devoted father, semi-professional storyteller and proud summer resident of Long Island in Casco Bay, died on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, at the age of 71, following a short and spirited battle with lung cancer.Joe was born in Portland on May 12, 1948 and graduated from Portland High School in 1966. He attended Beloit College in Wisconsin and graduated with a history degree in 1970. He then spent several years teaching in Boston’s most challenging public schools during the busing era of the 1970s.After moving back home to Portland, Joe indulged his sense of adventure and wanderlust and spent several months “kicking around the banana republics” in Central America. This instilled in him a lifelong desire to define his life by his experiences and adventures, ultimately taking him throughout much of Europe, the Middle East, Central and South America. Most recently, Joe and his wife spent several months living in Southern France and Portugal. Tales of his travels spread far and wide upon his returns to Maine, as he regaled friends, family, colleagues, total strangers and numerous barstool companions with his stories.Joe valued his work with the special needs community within the Portland schools. After years as a special education teacher, Joe served as the District’s first school-to-work coordinator, helping dozens of intellectually disabled high school students assimilate into the working world. Joe built his life to support a general “joie de vivre” that valued shared quality experiences and creating new memories over frivolous possessions. He had a lifelong love affair with Long Island since his first visit at nine days old. He purchased his island home while in college and spent much of his summers transforming the heavily wooded land into extensive rock and vegetable gardens. His last working summer was as a Park Ranger at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in 1971. Summers thereafter were spent in the garden, on the beach, boating, fishing, playing tennis or planning the next dinner party.In 1983, Joe married Peg Libby, who shared his love of travel, fine food and entertaining their tight circle of close friends. Joe and Peg welcomed a son, Adam, in 1986. They formed a very close and fun-loving small family, as Joe and Adam spent every day together on the island in the summer and went skiing every Sunday in the winter. A devoted father, he never missed a single sporting event and was a positive and encouraging presence on the sidelines. His family was further complemented by a daughter-in-law, Ariel, in 2016. In July 2019, Joe welcomed his first grandchild, Samuel, who quickly became the main character in his latest round of stories. Joe is predeceased by his mother Kathleen, father Joseph Sr. and brother David. He is survived by his wife Peg; son Adam, daughter-in-law Ariel, grandson Samuel; two sisters; numerous nieces and nephews; dozens of friends and countless witnesses to his tales and adventures, which will live on far after he is gone.Joe’s greatest joy was sharing his life and celebrating in the company of his closest friends and family. The next celebration will take place at Jones, Rich and Barnes Funeral Home, 199 Woodford St., Portland at 4:00 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 27. Visitation hours will be held at the same location on Thursday, Sept. 26 from 4:00-7:00 p.m. Please visit to sign Joe’s online guestbook. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Kids First Center,