The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone,
but the things you do for others remain as your legacy.
-Kalu Ndukwe Kalu
They called him “The Legend.”
His name was Chuck Novotny, and he lived up to his nickname.
For over 30 years, Chuck nurtured students and athletes of all ages as a 6th grade teacher, guidance counselor, and coach to more kids than you can count. Those kids, now adults, tell stories of how he changed their life’s trajectory and shaped them as young adults. Some credit Chuck with helping them stay in school or leave gangs, apply to colleges, or play collegiate sports.
Chuck retired a few years ago and spent most of his time on the road, driving any distance necessary to watch his sons play music and competitive soccer. His middle son, Nick Novotny (27) of Rochester, MN is the musician. Nick says that despite living five hours away, his dad was often in the front row at his performances. “My dad always supported my passions,” Nick says. After shows Chuck would chat with the musicians and buy the band’s CDs to give to his friends and neighbors.
Nick describes his dad as a generous person who would drop everything to help someone—like the time Nick damaged his car in a fender bender and Chuck immediately drove from Illinois to help find a replacement vehicle. “Time and distance didn’t matter,” Nick says. “He would do anything at the drop of a hat for anyone. He would be there for them.”
One day in 2018, Chuck called to tell Nick about the sarcoma cancer diagnosis. He visited the doctor due to a hernia and an x-ray revealed something suspicious on his lungs. It was angiosarcoma. Chuck underwent treatment for nearly five months but passed away in January 2019 at age 59.
Nick recalls one of his visits with his dad in Rochester. They enjoyed a beer at the Little Thistle Brewing Co. before the newly constructed space was opened to the public. Nick is now an Assistant Brewer at Little Thistle (the venue for the Ninja Anywhere RIS event in August). When he learned of the company’s plan to create a coffee lager—one of Chuck’s favorite types of beer—he suggested they name it after his dad: The Legend.
Chuck’s oldest son, Corey, designed the artwork for The Legend’s beer can: a great horned owl in the colors of blue and gold. The owl is an important symbol in the family, and the colors represent Chuck’s high school where he taught and coached (Leyden High School, Franklin Park, IL). Chuck passed away before he could try the namesake beer, as it was released only a few months ago. But Nick knows he would have loved it.
It’s been said that one’s legacy can be measured by their impact on others. Chuck’s legacy lives on with his family, friends, and the countless students and athletes whose lives he touched.