The Loop Newspaper - Tehachapi's Online Community News & Entertainment Guide

By Pat Doody 

Longtime Tehachapi residents mourn the loss of son and daughter-in-law


In loving memory of Gladys and George Thomas "Tom" Novinger.

George Thomas "Tom" Novinger (61) and his wife, Gladys (62), were swept away by a strong current while crossing the Wailuku River above the falls in Rainbow Falls State Park in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii on Nov. 25. Tom Novinger is the son of well-known Tehachapi residents George and Anne Marie Novinger. The younger Novingers were residents of San Diego County where they owned and operated Vineyard Hacienda, a bed and breakfast and wedding venue.

According to Anne Marie, during the Thanksgiving holiday Tom and Gladys were showing their son Joseph Harmes III and his fiancee the beautiful Big Island of Hawaii, the family condo at Punaluu Black Sand Beach and the favorite spots that the Novinger family have enjoyed on the Big Island for decades. The couple decided to return to the upper waterfalls, something they had done on a previous trip to the island, but were swept away by the strong current. The younger couple looked on in horror as Tom and Gladys were swept away.

Gladys Novinger was found unconscious at the base of the falls. She was transported to Hilo Medical Center where she later died. "Hilo has dedicated rescue teams including helicopter, land search and underwater specialists," said Anne Marie. While an aerial search was conducted, according to the local fire department, heavy rains and flooding prevented ground searches. A candlelight vigil for them was held Monday, Dec. 4 at Balboa Park in San Diego.

On Friday, Dec. 1 a body was discovered along the Hawaii coast that was believed to be Tom Novinger. Anne Marie Novinger confirmed to The Loop on Thursday, Dec. 7 that the body of Tom Novinger had indeed been found.

"They were the best of the best," said Harmes. "They will be missed deeply. I will always carry them in my heart. And I dedicate my life to their legacy."

Tom recently retired as a diplomat for the US State Department's Foreign Service where he specialized in East Asian regional affairs. Gladys, who was born in Peru, served as an Honorary Consul of Peru and founded House of Peru in Balboa Park 16 years ago. Both were active community volunteers. Tom had volunteered to work as a project manager for the nine new international cottages the group had planned.

The Novinger family has been in Tehachapi since 1942. The family is accepting cards from the community. Also, according to Oscar Urteaga, Vice President of House of Peru, the family has asked that if people want to make a donation, it can be made to in memory and recognition of Gladys and George "Tom" Novinger.


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