As soon as Paul Gensic found out Wednesday his wife Melissa was going to have a son in four months, he started calling his four brothers. Then he called his hero.
“I'm looking at my dad more and more now as, ‘Hey, how did you do this or approach this or that?'” Gensic said. “He set the standard pretty high. He's done a lot of soul-searching and he's reflected a lot on the way he raised us. We've had some long discussions on things we didn't see eye-to-eye on, but I aspire to be the type of father my dad is.”
As they celebrate Father's Day, Mark and Betty Gensic have been incredibly blessed by their sons, Jake, 32; Ben, 30; Sam, 29; Paul, 27; and Matt, 25. Besides being amazing athletes at Carroll High School, Jake, Ben, Paul and Matt graduated from the United States Air Force Academy, and Sam is a Columbia City High School teacher after attending Bethel.
To give Betty a little help, it's somewhat appropriate that the first grandchild is Sam's 1-year-old daughter.
There have been a handful of families who have sent four sons to the Air Force Academy, but all four of the Gensic boys were also outstanding track athletes who became team co-captains. Paul, Jake and Ben all rank on the academy's top 10 list for the pole vault, and Matt was an accomplished decathlete. Paul is still hoping to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in London.
Though four of them ended up at the academy, they all found their own paths.
“For Jake, I think it was a little bit of he knew it was going to be hard, but there were a lot of unknowns,” Ben said. “As each one of us got closer, we'd kind of joke about it and say, ‘Paul, there's no excuse for you because you've heard all the stories from two other people.' By the time it got to Matt, it was ‘Hey, you've really got no excuse. I can't believe you are doing this!' ”
Mark and Betty attended 13 consecutive Parents Weekends in Colorado Springs before Matt graduated last spring. One of Mark's greatest memories came during the 2005 NCAA Championships meet as Jake coached Paul. After Paul cleared 18 feet to finish third, he walked halfway back down the runway and bowed his head in prayer.
“When you watch your sons know where to give the credit for their blessings and their talent, that's probably the best of all,” Mark said. “My wife is my inspiration here on earth, and she has brought that balance to our family. It was really, really neat to see that play out in my life and in the boys' lives in terms of faith.”
The Gensics are equally proud of Sam, who also works for Young Life, a Christian youth organization. Mark marvels at the influence Sam has on his students and said Sam inspires him.
As they were growing up, the Gensic boys were usually outside playing with each other and their father, who stressed the fundamentals of sports and having fun. There were also a lot of balls bouncing in the house.
“I've always loved him and had this sense that he just knew what it took to be a great father,” Ben said. “I used to think that he knew exactly what to do, how to act, and what the right words of advice were for every situation in life, but over the last five or six years I've learned that it has been in the most difficult times (for my brothers and I) that my Dad has often felt like he didn't know what the right words of advice were. I'm thankful that in those moments he asked God to lead him and speak through him. I think that even if he felt helpless, those moments of humbleness are when he has been fulfilling his role as a father the best.”
As Paul said, they are still getting the benefits of Mark's investment in his sons. He always taught them it was OK to make mistakes because he was also the first person to point out the flaws in himself.
“He always provided us with opportunities, but he also kept them in the proper context through his own example and his own actions showing us what was important,” Paul said. “I hope I can continue his humbleness in always putting God first.”
Jake works in finance at Raytheon, Ben is finishing up his master's at IPFW, Sam teaches at Columbia City, Paul is a captain stationed at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho and Matt is a lieutenant stationed in Guam. But every day, no matter where they are, they can still hear their father's voice in their heads.
“As we get older, we kind of realize more and more what he has taught us and how all that has benefited us,” Ben said.