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The Family That Plays Together...

 

From left: Monica, Tom, "Pop", Nancy, Buffy, Dan, Carl Jr.

The Family That Plays Together...-The Horstman Family, Evansville, Indiana

As the biennial National Senior Games approaches its 14th gathering of athletes since the first event was held in 1987, we are delighted to see more and more intergenerational participation. Earlier in our history, we saw participation by couples, siblings and cousins; then children began to join with parents in the athlete ranks as they came of age. Family connections continue to grow. 

And why not? Our athletes consistently speak about the unique atmosphere of fun, fellowship and fitness found at The Games that adds layers of enjoyment and meaning to their core competitive efforts. Family members have always been cheering on the sidelines and gaining cherished memories while watching parents and grandparents striving for their Personal Best. It usually starts with one person who gets into the game and inspires family members and others to do the same.

Carl Horstman was just that sort of inspiration, and he got the ball rolling with his family in a big way. He was an avid league bowler since he returned from his service in World War II, and when he discovered the National Senior Games at the age of 68 he was all in, making every one until his last appearance in 2007 at the age of 90. His enthusiasm for the sport caught on with four of his seven children, and then with two of his daughters-in-law. They all enjoyed local league play through the years, and one by one, the family members reached 50 and began to compete in the Indiana State Games with their beloved "Pop." At times when everyone was healthy, seven family members would qualify in the state games, and in 2005 and 2007 the entire contingent of bowling Horstmans rolled the rock at National Senior Games.

"Pop" took more pride in seeing so many of his kids following his lead than in the gold medal he won in doubles play in 2003. He weaved a tight family unit, so much so that he even influenced the careers of his children. Carl worked as a letter carrier, and four family members also followed into the postal service. The other children all took on careers that involved serving others, and that spirit of service has carried on after his passing in 2012 with several family members regularly volunteering to help with the Indiana State Games that are now held annually in their hometown of Evansville. For the Horstmans, it's a tribute to "Pop" and a way of thanking Senior Games for helping to keep their father motivated and active into his 90s. It's also giving them the same health and social benefits, and that's what pursuing your Personal Best is all about.

We asked son Tom Horstman, 64, to represent the family and to share more about their patriarch's legacy in the following conversation:

 

Tom, we appreciate you doing this interview on behalf of your family. It's clear that your father Carl Horstman epitomized Personal Best, because he persevered and inspired many others to get in the game.

Carl - we always called him Pop - was an avid bowler for a zillion years, ever since he got back from World War II. He missed the very first National Senior Games held in St Louis in 1987 because he did not know about them, but participated in every one subsequent to that from 1989 through 2007 in Louisville at the age of 90. He was very proud to win the gold in the doubles play with Doug Morrison from Lafayette, Indiana in 2003.

I also want to point out that Pop made sure over the years to schedule his knee, hip and heart valve replacement surgeries at times to avoid a conflict with qualifying or participating in Senior Games. Pop passed away in June of 2012 at the age of 95, but he will definitely be on my shoulder, giving me a few helpful hints, when I bowl in Minnesota this year.

We all laugh that his last event was difficult because of his baseball cap. He continued to collect state pins during all of his national games, which he put on the cap. By 2007, it got so heavy from all the metal he couldn't wear that thing when he bowled anymore!

 

So he knocked down pins, and collected them too!

Oh yeah. There you go. (Laughs)

 

Carl's had an influence on many more family members than yourself. Tell us about that.

Pop's determination was a definite inspiration and the main reason so many of us are participating. When I came home from my college days at Indiana University, I started subbing for him in his league. Then I got going pretty steady and haven't stopped since 1973.

I have seven brothers and sisters. Two of my brothers, Carl Jr. and Danny also regularly bowl, as well as one of my sisters, Monica- we call her Moni. Four out of eight ain't bad. And my wife Nancy and Carl Jr.'s wife Buffy also bowl. In fact, four of us bowl together on a league team every Tuesday. And all of us have been in the Senior Games. I should mention that at one time many years ago our brother Clem bowled with us too. But Clem, who is a disabled Vietnam veteran, had an automobile accident that created back problems. That eventually made it impossible for him to continue bowling.

We have a lot of people from Evansville that participate in the state Senior Games, even when they were held in Indianapolis. I remember several years ago 18 people from Evansville went up there and qualified for Nationals in bowling, and 7 of them were Horstmans!

 

So, are all the bowling Horstmans going to The Games in Minnesota this summer?

From left: Tom, Nancy, "Moni" and Dan join "Pop" at the 2005 National Senior Games in Pittsburgh.

All of us usually bowl in the Indiana games every year. Danny, Carl and Buffy have not made it to some of the National Senior Games due to surgeries and schedule issues. And only Moni made it to California in 2009. None of the rest of us could get free or afford it at the time. But we all went to Nationals with Pop in 2005 and 2007 before he had to give it up. Moni, Nancy and I went to the most recent games in Houston and Cleveland. Moni got a bronze in doubles play in 2011.

As far as I know, everyone is still planning to go to Minnesota this year. I'm hoping we'll do well. My wife Nancy has two good knees now. Danny, Monica, Carl and Nancy all have artificial knees. Pop had them too. Somehow I've avoid that problem, but I guess it runs in the family. (Laughs)

 

Based on his dedication, it must make your family members feel guilty about not going even if they have a good reason.

Exactly. I knew that I could never quit bowling while he was here, and now that he's gone...I don't want to! It's something he instilled in me.

 

So Pop's influence has brought a couple of wives into the bowling family too?

You could say that. My wife Nancy hasn't been bowling as long as me. She started after we got married 35 years ago. I was in leagues so she decided to join one too. She is the only member of our family who has ever bowled a 300 game. That was two years ago. It was amazing, but she has always been a good bowler. The first time she and I could go to the National Senior Games in 2003 she took a silver in the 50-54 division. Then we won gold in the mixed doubles. We both bowled pretty hot in those games in Virginia. I did not imagine that would happen, and it was the most amazing thing I've ever been part of. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to duplicate that effort at Nationals since! (Laughs)

 

Maybe it was the excitement of being in your first national event and the atmosphere around it.

It was awesome. At first it seemed like any other tournament, but then I noticed that the people there were really involved and wanted to be there. The friendship among the participants was fantastic. Everybody wanted to find out where you were from and a little of your history. There is an overwhelming sense of camaraderie in these games. It was really an eye opener that first time to meet a gentleman from Texas who was bowling at the age of 101. He told us he took up bowling when he turned 80 to give himself something to do. (Laughs) That was fascinating.

And I do love to go to the Village and see all the sponsors and booths that contribute and help make this all happen. It's great to see all the athletes from other sports. Sometimes they kid us and ask, "Bowling? Is that a sport?" That tickles me. To each his own.

 

Bowling does take physical skill, concentration and practice. We call that a sport.

Sports are all different. Bowling is different than playing softball or running track, but it still does require that you get up off your rear end and participate. It also requires you to keep mentally active, which I believe is as important for you as the physical activity. And as for the physical part, doing 30 frames every night you bowl in a league takes a lot out of you.

All I can attest to is that Pop did it until he couldn't do it anymore. I always thought as soon as he couldn't pick up that bowling ball we would have to bury him right there. He really lived for bowling. We believe it helped keep him going year after year after year. His last National Senior Games was in 2007 when he was 90.

 

What did Carl do for a living?

He was a letter carrier. So were my older brothers Clem and Danny, Carl Jr.'s wife Buffy, and my baby sister Martha. She's only 58.

Carl's pin hat

Wow. Your Pop must have been one whale of an influencer!  Do you deliver mail too?

No, but I wanted to. At the time I started work the post office was mainly hiring veterans, and I wasn't in the service. My brothers and of course Pop were all veterans. I've been working for the state unemployment service. It's called WorkOne in Indiana. I got started on a work study program while I was still in college, and it just continued full time. It's been 41 years now. But when I retire, I might pick up a part time rural mail delivery job. I will say all of Pop's children found work in service oriented jobs. Monica is a licensed practical nurse, and Carl Jr. worked for the utility company before he retired.

 

That helps explain your reputation for volunteer service. We hear the Horstmans always help out with the Indiana State Games every year.

The Southwest Indiana Regional Council on Aging sponsors these games. SWIRCA does their best to broadcast out to everyone in the state that Senior Games keeps you active and involved. Whenever they get a chance, they point to our Pop and the fact that his sport kept him going for 90 plus years. Being in Senior Games helped make that happen. It gave him something extra to live for, and he stayed active until he simply could not do it anymore. This means a lot to us. So every year, when the Indiana State Games come around, SWIRCA really looks forward to having us come help. We are happy to do it and would like to see more people get involved. For my part, even if it means in the long run that I wouldn't qualify, I'd love to see more participation in senior bowling.

 

You haven't mentioned your mother as a bowler.

She didn't mind Pop bowling, but for some reason she wouldn't be caught dead in a bowling alley. I remember when we wanted to surprise Pop on his 80th birthday. The date occurred on bowling night, so we had to take the party to the bowling alley. Family and friends poured in, except Mom. I thought it was hilarious that she didn't come for his birthday party.

 

What about the extended family? Is bowling important to the younger Horstmans?

I don't have any children myself, but there are several children and grandchildren in the family. As of now, none of the next generation below us bowl regularly except for one of Pop's grandsons that has been bowling regularly in a league. That's Clem's oldest son Bruce.

But this is a common problem bowling is facing nationwide. Not as many of the younger generation seem to be willing to commit the time and effort to get involved with league bowling. Now, with video games and iPhones, it's more difficult to get them physically involved. I hope we can reverse that trend.

Younger folks don't realize that you can do sports like bowling and golf for your whole life. You may not do it as well later as when you were 30 years old, but as long as you can walk up to the lane and throw that ball it will keep you going. Pop was proof of that.

I remember once that one of my nephews flunked a bowling course in physical education in college and Pop was just livid. (Chuckles)

 

You have your share of fellow Baby Boomers that aren't very active as well. What do you tell your peers?

Get out of the house and get involved in something active, regardless of how minor it may seem. You're going to sit there and rot if you don't. I've been thinking about retiring and wonder what I will be doing. I need a reason to get up in the morning and be connected to something.

Like I've already said, there's the need for mental as well as physical activity, and they drive each other. Walking around t he block is good for you physically, but if you don't keep mentally and socially active it will come back to haunt you. Doing a sport gives you both, and it will keep you going in the right direction. You'll be surprised how it grows. It's an opportunit y to connect with friends and make new friends.

There are a ton of senior bowling leagues in this area, so it shows that there are many who know they need to do this. Being involved in a sport and with others helps keep you healthy, wealthy and wise all around I think. (Pause) Well, maybe not the wealth. I haven't gotten rich by bowling yet. (Laughs)

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