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Parents Of Idaho Mine Victim Want Shaft Blasted Shut

The Spokane parents of a man who died in an abandoned Idaho mine last weekend want the tempting tunnel blasted shut.

“I don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” said Barbara Novak. “This has been devastating to our family.”

Stephen R. Novak and Christopher Ost-Homstad were overcome by carbon monoxide deep inside the mine shaft last Saturday on the shore of Lake Pend Oreille. Their names were misspelled in earlier news articles.

The mine, with a sandy beach below it, was a favorite stop-off on Novak family excursions out of Bayview, Idaho.

The mine is a curiosity that has been explored by many people over the years, family members said, and Novak had gone inside it many times before.

Family members said Tuesday that Novak and Ost-Homstad had looked forward to the weekend as a joyful reunion aboard the Novak family houseboat.

“They were both real happy, and they were both doing what they wanted to do,” said Barbara Novak, Novak’s stepmother.

She said the men were unaware of the danger lurking inside.

Novak was the son of former Spokane City Manager Terry Novak, who is now acting director of the Joint Center for Higher Education, the new branch college campus downtown.

Barbara Novak is a deacon at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist and a bassoonist for the Spokane Symphony Orchestra.

They said they will press authorities to have the opening of the mine closed. Other mines along the lake should be closed as well, they said.

On Tuesday, they remembered their son as an intelligent, caring man who was turning his passion for world travel into a budding import-export business based in Seattle.

“I think the world has lost two brilliant young men who had tremendous potential and tremendous futures,” Barbara Novak said.

Novak, 28, was a 1989 graduate of Whitman College in Walla Walla.

Ost-Homstad, 22, was a recent graduate of Moorhead State University in Moorhead, Minn. He was married to the former Elizabeth Ost, a niece of Barbara Novak’s and a graduate of the same college.

The couple had been married by Barbara Novak less than a year ago in a ceremony in Minnesota. They both wanted to be teachers and had moved to Eastern Washington recently.

Over the years, Novak and OstHomstad became friends. The trip to the lake Saturday gave Novak the chance to show Ost-Homstad the special area where his family liked to stop.

“He loved the boat. He loved to be out on Lake Pend Oreille,” Barbara Novak said.

Novak celebrated his 28th birthday last Friday, and was going to attend his 10th high school class reunion Saturday night. He was a graduate of St. George’s School, and had moved to Seattle after finishing college. He was single.

“He was extremely full of energy,” said Mike Cantlon, a close family friend, who described Novak as intense and direct. “He had a mind that absorbed information like a sponge.”

Barbara Novak said, “He was a carbon copy of Terry. He was incredibly curious.”

He was a dedicated environmentalist and a fan of medieval history. He belonged to a society that recreates life in the Dark Ages through costumes and fairs.

Over the years, Novak had traveled to some 60 countries, and was parlaying that passion into a growing wholesale business known as Far East Handicrafts. His firm specializes in clothing from Nepal and jewelry from Thailand.

“He was definitely a citizen of the world,” Cantlon said.

He paid the Nepalese fair prices for their goods, and then returned some of that money to plant trees for fruit and vegetation in the Nepal countryside.

“He was not afraid of people who were different than him,” Barbara Novak said. “He tried to see the world through their eyes.”

A memorial service is planned for Thursday at 2 p.m. at St. John’s Cathedral with the Bishop Jeff Terry presiding.

The family is asking that any memorial contributions be made to the International Fund of the Riverpoint-SIRTI Foundation.

Also, Novak’s graduating class is planning to build a new nature trail named for him at the St. George’s campus along the Little Spokane River.

A separate memorial service is planned for Ost-Homstad in Hallock, Minn., on Sunday.

Terry Novak said the loss of his son has left him feeling drained, but he’s determined not to let his son’s passion for life die inside of him.

“You feel simultaneously empty and challenged to carry on his legacy,” said Novak.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Two Color Photos