Saturday, October 19, 2013

Sports Center Saturday: My Dad

Ken getting a precocious start on his lawn game skills

It's late for a Saturday blogging prompt, but it's still officially Saturday! My thought on genealogy blogging is to work from the inside out, so the first person I thought of for Sports Center Saturday was my dad. According to my mom--and my memories of him from when I was very young--my dad was pretty good at any sport he tried. Football, basketball, tennis, hockey, water polo, golf, pole vaulting (seriously!), running--well, maybe not that last one. 

Ken in a fierce game of one-man paddleball while brother Bruce watches and learns
I recently made contact with a 2nd cousin of my dad's on his mother's side emailed me and asked whether I knew whether "any of the Kirstowskis [my grandmother's maiden name] that were runners or athletes?" The cousin mentioned a couple relatives who played minor league ball, bowled 220 average and were good runners. This is my dad's German side of the family and I'm guessing his athletic ability came from that side. 

Ken is lower left in this photo of the Redford Walther League basketball team
When I found this photo I assumed it was my dad's high school team and he said, "No, that was my Walther League team." American German Lutherans were big on social clubs and sporting clubs. The Walther League was named for C.F.W. Walther, founder of the Missouri Synod of the American Lutheran church. It was basically a church youth group that included sports teams as part of the programming.

I found some football photos and related newspaper clippings in a file passed to our family after my dad's parents' passing. My dad has mentioned that his parents never attended his high school games, but apparently someone was keeping track of his high school career--probably my grandmother. Don't mess with that 230-pound Junior tackle! 

Go Huskies!

One thing I learned form these clippings was that my dad was also a kicker. That was news to me. Ken received a couple of offers to play football in college and was admitted to Western Michigan on that premise. Once admitted, he decided not to play on the team and instead focus on his education. He did play hockey for Western, which was a club sport at the school in the late 1960s.    

After Ken graduated from college, married my mom and stared working full time, he still played golf, LOTS of basketball at the Birmingham Y, water polo with the Detroit Athletic Club "Beavers" (wish I had photos of that!), bowling and squash at the DAC, weeknight softball league and tennis with my mom "Up North" on family long weekends (I can still remember chasing balls around that hot asphalt waiting for them to be done!). 

I think the lasting legacy of my dad's athletic career will be that he was always outside playing with us when he was home--because he loved sports and it was probably the most fun way for him to interact with us.

Softball in the yard, basketball in the driveway, sledding, swimming in freezing cold Lake Huron for hours on end. 

Maybe my dad could have gone "further" in sports if he had wanted to, but in our family I think his ability in and love of sport was put to exactly the right use.

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