Rebekah Novemsky, 55, of Maplewood: Devoted Mother & Fierce Advocate for People With Disabilities

by Reba Auslander-Stevens
0 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail

Rebekah (Becky) Novemsky (Obrzut) died at her home in Maplewood, surrounded by her loving family and friends, on April 18, 2021. She was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer in August 2020.

Becky was a pillar of strength. Many people saw her as a fighter, resilient, strong, and stubborn (in a good way). Her husband Tom said, “I really thought she would live to be 100, even after her diagnosis.” The community is mourning her loss, but determined to do everything possible to celebrate her life.

Becky was born in 1965, and was raised in Maplewood. She went to Tuscan Elementary, Maplewood Middle School, and of course Columbia High School (CHS). Her mother, Lisa Novemsky, and brother, Michael (Mike) Novemsky, both live in Maplewood, and Mike is a beloved Physics teacher at CHS. Becky is also survived by two other brothers, Joseph and Nathan, and her half-sister Michal.

Rebekah (Becky) Novemsky

After receiving a degree in Psychology at Douglass College at Rutgers, Becky worked for a non-profit in New Brunswick, NJ, helping to rehabilitate people released from jail. As luck would have it, her future husband, Tom Obrzut, got a job at another non-profit that was right next door. Tom and Becky had met previously through mutual friends. When Tom first saw Becky, he was so taken aback by her beauty that he could barely speak to her. At that time, Tom was in am serious relationship with another woman, which ultimately ended. Eventually, they both moved
to New York City, where Becky studied Urban Policy and Planning in the Masters’ Program at The New School, and continued to work for nonprofits.

A full decade after they first met, Tom and Becky started to date and eventually got married when Becky was pregnant with their son, Liam, who was born in 1998. Not ones for convention, their wedding was thrown together by friends and family in the yard of their Aunt Penny’s house in Neshanic Station, NJ, and was the perfect celebration of their personalities and union.

The weather leading up to their wedding was terrible, and rain was forecast for that whole day. But, lo and behold, after 10 a.m. the sky cleared up and the day was gorgeous – full of sun, music by a live Klezmer band, poetry readings, great food and loved ones.

Liam was born with disabilities, so Becky stayed home for two years to care for him. Then she started volunteering for organizations that helped families dealing with disabilities and was offered a full-time job. Tom and Becky’s son Milo was born at the very end of 2002, and grew up attending the very same schools his mom did in Maplewood. Milo is in the 2021 senior class and will be going to Muhlenberg College.

Becky was always a tireless researcher and advocate for those with special needs. Her most recent job was with the NJ Council on Developmental Disabilities. She was a sought after speaker and counseled countless individuals and families on dealing with stigma and navigating bureaucracy to provide care for kids with disabilities at home.

Nothing would stop her – not even her cancer — from helping others managing with disabilities. Becky worked relentlessly throughout her cancer treatments, as much as she could, even on her sickbed, right through to the end of her life.

Those who knew Becky were mesmerized by her strong yet compassionate presence. As many people have said, her smile would light up a room. She was often seen around Maplewood and at Bradley Beach – her happy place – with Liam, Milo and/or Tom, looking relaxed and content.

Becky did everything on her and her family’s terms. She loved to hang out with her friends and socialize, but she was not one to worry about missing out. If she couldn’t make it to a party, the party was where she was, always with her boys.

Becky’s presence will always be felt in Maplewood, throughout New Jersey, and many other places like Portugal, where her beloved cousins live and where the family visited a few years ago. A garden in Union, NJ, is being named after Becky in honor of kids with special needs.

There has been an outpouring of support and grief from the SOMA community as more people have learned about Becky’s passing. More than $9,000 has been raised through a Meal Train sign up, which has spread solely through word-of-mouth.

The Obrzut family will need a lot of help to cover various big expenses in the coming months, so for those who would still like to donate please do so through either the Meal Train page or GoFundMe.

Becky will always be cherished, loved, and sorely missed.

Related Articles