Stephen Nowak, 91
Holden – Stephen Nowak, 91, of Jefferson, passed away peacefully on Monday, February 6, 2017. He was born in Hardwick on September 3, 1925, son of the late John and Felitia (Tarka) Nowak.
During World War II Steve enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. From April of 1944 to March of 1945 he was aboard the aircraft carrier USS Franklin, also known as “Big Ben.” On March 19th 1945 “Big Ben” was attacked by Japanese kamikazes. There were numerous explosions from the kamikazes, ship ordinance and fuel. Hundreds were trapped below deck. Per his Navy citation: “Private First Class Nowak coolly took control of the perilous situation and attempted to find an escape route through suffocating, smoke-filled compartments, proceeding without the aid of a breather apparatus. Finally locating a route after six unsuccessful attempts, he led the men to safety and, on the way out discovering a sailor lying on the deck overcome by smoke, carried him through smoke-filled spaces to safety.” For extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty Steve earned the nation’s second highest honor, The Navy Cross.
Steve is predeceased by his wife Shirley, his son Donald, and his brother Charles. Steve will be affectionately missed and remembered by his son, Garry Nowak and his wife, Patrice of Rutland; his granddaughter, Jill Whitlock of Cranston, RI; and his sister, Irene Morin of West Boylston.
Relatives and friends are invited at visit with Steve’s family from 4 to 6 pm on Friday, February 10, at the Miles Funeral Home, 1158 Main St., Holden. Steve will be laid to rest next to his beloved wife Shirley in the spring at St. Mary’s Cemetery, Holden. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Activities Fund at the Holden Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center, 32 Mayo Dr., Holden, MA 01520. To share a memory or offer a condolence, please visit
Published in Worcester Telegram & Gazette from Feb. 8 to Feb. 9, 2017