On Oct. 23, 2020, a ceremony was held to dedicate the Robert E. Novitke Municipal Center in honor of Grosse Pointe Woods Mayor Robert Novitke. The longtime mayor passed away March 14.

On Oct. 23, 2020, a ceremony was held to dedicate the Robert E. Novitke Municipal Center in honor of Grosse Pointe Woods Mayor Robert Novitke. The longtime mayor passed away March 14.

File photos by Deb Jacques

Grosse Pointe Woods mourns loss of Mayor Robert Novitke

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published March 16, 2021

 Several of Robert Novitke’s family members attended the dedication of the Robert E. Novitke Municipal Center Oct. 23, 2020.

Several of Robert Novitke’s family members attended the dedication of the Robert E. Novitke Municipal Center Oct. 23, 2020.


GROSSE POINTE WOODS — In October 2020, Grosse Pointe Woods city officials and employees gathered at 20025 Mack Plaza Drive for the official dedication of the Robert E. Novitke Municipal Center, which includes City Hall, the Community Center, the Public Safety Department and the municipal court.

“I’m just honored,” Novitke said at the time. “Thanks to the council and the support of the administration, the residents, the city employees and the business community. Also to my wife and children.”

The flags at the Municipal Center and all other city properties were lowered to half-staff March 15 to pay tribute to Novitke, who died March 14. The longtime mayor, who reportedly died from emphysema, also was remembered with a moment of silence at the March 15 Grosse Pointe Woods City Council meeting held via Zoom videoconferencing.

“There’s a really big hole in our midst, and that’s the absence of Bob, and I think it affects us all greatly,” Grosse Pointe Woods Mayor Pro Tem Art Bryant said. “It’s very, very hard to think of the city of Grosse Pointe Woods without thinking of Bob. I am sad and troubled by it. His commitment to the city, as well as his family, will be his lasting legacy. I know that he would want us to move on. Semper Fi, Bob.”

According to an obituary at www.ahpeters.com, Novitke was born July 20, 1946, in Detroit. He is survived by his wife, Marsha, of 54 years. He was father to the late James, as well as Debra McCarthy (John), David, Michael and Deanna Deldin (Marc); grandpa to Emma, Caitlyn and Nora; and brother to Dennis.

City officials released a statement March 14 on his passing:

“A resident of the Woods for more than 40 years, Mayor Novitke served his city with integrity, dignity and decisiveness as a member of the council for 13 years — seven of those as mayor pro tem — and as its mayor since November 1990,” the statement read. “Throughout his tenure, Mayor Novitke was keenly focused on the development of ‘community’ — making Grosse Pointe Woods the kind of home town where all families and individuals could enjoy a fulfilling life with dependable city services, special events that appeal to and attract all age groups, outstanding city parks and recreation programs, well-maintained neighborhoods, and a vibrant business district.”

Novitke held a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wayne State University and Juris Doctor from the Detroit College of Law. He began practicing law in 1975. A veteran, Novitke served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1964 to 1968 with time spent in Vietnam. He also served on many commissions in the city.

Bryant first met Novitke in 2005 and described him as “kind” and “very organized.”

“He did so much. He contributed to the city for so many years. Being involved in the city is a cause he took on,” Bryant said. “He ran a very nice law practice. He was a good family man. I think of him as a very hardworking servant for the city and the people. He was so helpful. He would take time explaining things to you.”

From conducting city business during council meetings to working with department administrators, Novitke was a very strong presence in Grosse Pointe Woods. He was a fixture at various events, including the annual Memorial Day ceremony and the city’s tree lighting “Woods Aglow.” He ran for mayor since 1990, sometimes in opposed races — and other times, he ran unopposed.

He was always on hand to present proclamations to deserving organizations and businesses. The city official was one of many who, in 2017, welcomed home the Grosse Pointe Woods/Shores Little League team after its participation in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

“You made us very, very proud,” he told the players upon their return.

Bryant said Novitke was responsible for many repairs and updates in the city.

“That goes back to special bonds for repairing the roads, the buses transporting kids around the city when the kids want to go to the park, the building of several buildings within the city, the reconstruction of City Hall after the (flood),” Bryant said.

The elected official supported many other projects, including the renovation of the Grosse Pointe Woods jail and dispatch. His current mayoral term was up this November.

According to Bryant, within the next two to three weeks, the council will appoint a council member as mayor to fill out Novitke’s term. That person will then have to resign his or her council seat. The mayor pro tem performs the duties of the mayor in the mayor’s absence or disability.

State Rep. Tenisha Yancey released a statement to offer her condolences.

“My heart and prayers go out to Mayor Novitke’s family during this difficult time. We all mourn his loss,” Yancey said. “He served Grosse Pointe Woods faithfully for many years, from his time serving on city commissions to his tenure in the mayor’s office. His love and dedication for his community was indisputable. He was the pillar of our community, and his legacy will continue to live on.”

‘I felt so strongly and highly of him.’
At the March 15 meeting, Councilwoman Vicki Granger shared her thoughts on her colleague.

“I just know we all feel the loss of Bob Novitke. Bob was a good friend,” she said. “Anytime I may have missed a meeting due to illness, Bob was always on the phone the next day. I know I will miss him tremendously.”

“I would like to say I’m very pleased we were able to rename the municipal complex and to have him there,” Councilman Todd McConaghy said at the March 15 meeting. “It was a moment for him and his family as it was for us. I think it’s safe to say he was very, very proud to see that lettering going up on the building.”

City Administrator and Police Commissioner Bruce J. Smith said he will miss Novitke’s guidance and friendship.

“The Mayor will be remembered as one of the most dedicated public servants to have taken the oath of office who committed himself unconditionally to the city and its residents. He was a careful guardian of public tax dollars and watched spending very closely,” Smith said in an email. “Additionally, he cared deeply about the city employees and strongly advocated that the promises made to them were honored to the best of the city’s ability. His knowledge and experience had such depth that there weren’t many questions he didn’t have an answer for.

“During my time working with Bob was one of sharing and enlightenment in managing the city. He encouraged me to look carefully at everything that came before me so that I would have a personal understanding of the issues and to see them clearly,” Smith said. “His leadership will definitely be missed, as the city was very fortunate to have such a dedicated leader at the ship’s helm keeping it on course as being an outstanding community to live.”

Grosse Pointe Woods Planning Commission member Grant Gilezan knew Novitke in three capacities: family friend, fellow lawyer and community leader. Gilezan knew Novitke because his late father, Peter Gilezen, was once on the City Council and the Planning Commission.

“I’ve known him since the early ’90s. He was such a dedicated man and always a very positive person,” Gilezan said. “I felt so strongly and highly of him.”

He was “personally saddened” at the news of the mayor’s passing.

“It’s a huge loss for the community,” he said.

Novitke was very encouraging to Gilezan when he was getting into law.

“Bob was very helpful. I’m grateful for that. I really am,” Gilezan said. “He was sharp and committed to his clients. He had a very gifted legal mind.”

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church of Grosse Pointe Farms or the American Lung Association.

This is the second loss for the city in recent months. Councilman George McMullen Jr., first elected to the council in November 2017, died from pancreatic cancer this past December.