Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Whitehorse Star

A NATURAL FOR RADIO – Peter Novak is seen at work at CBC Yukon in 1994 (left) and at CHON-FM in the spring of 2019 (right). He died last Sunday. Star file photo, left, Photo by Donna Clayson right.

Broadcaster’s death called a tremendous loss

Peter Novak, a former CHON-FM and CBC Yukon broadcaster, died last Sunday morning at Whitehorse General Hospital. He was 62.

By Gord Fortin on November 6, 2019

Peter Novak, a former CHON-FM and CBC Yukon broadcaster, died last Sunday morning at Whitehorse General Hospital. He was 62.

Novak’s family issued a statement on his passing which can be viewed on CHON-FM’s website.

“We are all very saddened with the loss of Peter,” the family said.

“In his personal life, he was always kind, considerate and caring of others. He lived his life by the philosophy of ‘do unto other as you would have them do unto you.’”

His family called him a “radio addict” for most of his life. He listened to many radio stations, and worked at the now-defunct CFCF English-language station in Montreal during his time in college in the 1970s.

“Being able to tell stories, inform and entertain listeners was what made Peter happiest,” the family said.

“He believed the better information his listeners had, the better decisions they could make... all while entertaining them with music and stories.”

Morris Prokop, CHON-FM’s general manager, shared a few words about Novak in a phone interview Tuesday.

He said Novak started working at the station in the mid-2000s, after having left the CBC, and stayed at CHON-FM until his departure sometime in August or September.

Novak hosted several shows like Cool Country Morning and Cabin Radio, taking over the latter in 2014.

“He was a great guy to work with,” Prokop said.

He remembers Novak as a generous person who helped everyone. He called him a low-maintenance employee.

Novak used his 30-plus years’ experience to act as a mentor to the young reporters at CHON-FM, helping them and giving advice.

“He was very helpful,” Prokop said.

He added that Novak was pleasant to have around, having a sense of humour. He said Novak could make a comment that would get people to laugh out loud.

Novak’s passing was hard to hear for Prokop.

“It’s pretty tough,” Prokop said.

He was aware that Novak was ill, but thought he could recover.

Prokop said that there will be a lunch at CHON-FM’s office in Novak’s honour, likely this afternoon. He likes this idea of a celebration of life.

There may be a dedication done on the air, he added.

Overall, Prokop felt Novak had a big impact on the company, was a good employee and a great friend.

“He was a positive guy to have around,” Prokop said.

Retired CBC Yukon host Russ Knutson shared some of his memories of Novak from their time working together from the 1980s to Novak’s departure in 2005.

Knutson said Novak was sharp and funny. He described the late broadcaster’s sense of humour as dry, and he was good at one-liners. He added Novak could see humour in a lot of things.

Knutson felt Novak was a great fit to be a radio announcer, possessing a lot of passion and ability in that role.

“He was a natural,” Knutson said.

Knutson felt this talent goes back to Novak’s suburban Montreal childhood. Novak told him he would use walkie-talkies with his friends to emulate being on the air.

He recognized that Novak was known as the voice of the broadcaster, since he had turns hosting all three local shows aired weekdays. He said everyone knew Novak’s deep voice and distinctive personality.

Knutson said Novak was folksy and could make everyday mundane things sound exciting.

He remembered a remote broadcast Novak did from Rotary Peace Park. Novak was running around the park with a microphone and a foam missile that could be launched by stomping on a pad.

Knutson explained that Novak’s enthusiasm made this sound like there was an actual event in the park. He said people began flocking to the park to see what was going on.

Novak was around for so much that has taken place in the territory, Knutson noted. That included the January 2000 morning when a passing meteor abruptly lit up the darkened skies over Whitehorse and southern Yukon.

“It was a pretty exciting career that he had,” Knutson said.

He explained that the CBC had changed its operational focus, while CHON-FM let him be a radio personality.

He did not see Novak much after he left the CBC.

Novak was a private person who did not share a lot from his personal life.

Knutson was aware that Novak was not doing well, and was sad to hear of his passing.

He said Novak was a gentle soul who would never hurt anyone.

Knutson called Novak’s death a great loss to broadcasting. He said you don’t realize that until the person is actually gone.

Marsh Lake resident Donna Clayson told the Star, “Peter was a dear friend, and I will be fulfilling his wish of planting a tree in his memory on my property.”

Comments (4)

Up 4 Down 0

Brian Langevin on Nov 12, 2019 at 4:33 pm

In his latter years at CBC - and then again at CHN-FM Peter hosted an annual "Christmas greetings on the air". An opportunity for folks from the Yukon, nationwide and even the odd global call, to phone in and wish Christmas greetings to friends and family.
It would be nice to see one of the local stations to continue with this tradition and dedicate the show in Peter's name.
"The Annual Peter Novak Christmas Card Greeting on Air"

RIP my friend. I enjoyed our working with you when you sold hot tubs.
I will miss our chats about weather and aviation.

Up 12 Down 0

Thank You on Nov 10, 2019 at 10:47 am

I never met Peter Novak, but growing up and living out in the Yukon wilderness I listened to him on the radio countless times, especially back when CBC AM radio was all we could receive living out in remote areas of the territory. His voice was one of the most relaxing and reassuring I’ve ever heard on air and to me listening to him just became part of Yukon life, he seemed like part of the territory. Thank you for what you did Mr. Novak.

Up 7 Down 0

cora innes on Nov 9, 2019 at 6:53 pm

Heart warming words for a great friend. So happy we got to see you in July! Life is so fragile and yet we take it for granted everyday. Gone way before his time, he will be missed. RIP

Up 20 Down 0

Serena Novak on Nov 8, 2019 at 12:18 am

Excellent article, thank you for writing it. I'll miss you forever dad.
Love from Serena and Scott

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