Life’s Parallels Led Veteran Vic Kensler to Devote 30 Years to YES
Even though he comes from a long line of veterans dating back to the Revolutionary War, Vic Kensler didn’t originally intend to enlist and serve.
His path involved playing football at Wayne State in Wayne, Neb., and studying Spanish as a future career.
But when he was injured during his first semester and could no longer play, he returned home to Oskaloosa, IA, and shortly thereafter, joined the Navy.
“It was 1964 just before Vietnam, and once I thought my football career was over, I knew I needed to do something,” said Kensler, who is a trustee on the Youth Emergency Services (YES) board of trustees. “I went home for about a year and worked and then joined the Navy.
“I had a strong family history in the military, and I’m named for my great uncle Victor Dow, who served under General (John J.) Pershing in World War I and was a Seabee in the Navy in World War II.”
Kensler spent the next three-plus years largely aboard ships in the Mediterranean. After Boot Camp, he attended electronics school and spent his time in the Navy working largely as a cryptographic computer repairman as well as maintaining and repairing ship electronics equipment.
“I never had to go to Vietnam, but I always felt like I did what I could to help the United States during that time from where I was,” said Vic, whose older brother, Bob, served in Korea, and his father served in the Navy during WWII. The only combat zone that his ship was in was the Dominican Republic Crisis in 1965.
After his military service ended just before Christmas in 1967, Kensler returned to Wayne State the following year and earned his bachelor’s degree in marketing/management.
He did play one more year of football – more than 5 years older and 25 pounds heavier.
For the next 25 years, he worked in various roles with Mutual of Omaha – first as an underwriter, then in the planning department and finally as an actuarial manager.
Following that time, he spent 10 years with World Insurance before retiring.
During this time, he became involved with a very young nonprofit then-housed near Bellevue, Neb. – Youth Emergency Services – in 1978.
At the time, most people referred to it as the YES House, and it was former board member, Ron Ingram, who persuaded Kensler to help with structural/foundation issues with the house.
Thirty years and two terms as board president later, he retired from the YES board and moved into a trustee role, and he’s still involved with and supports the organization.
“I lost my mother when I was 15, and as the second youngest of 7 siblings, by then it was just one older sister and me living with my dad,” Kensler said.
“When she graduated high school and left town for work, it was just me and dad, and he was away from home a lot. I was alone often, and there were lots of opportunities for me to get into trouble.
“I identified with the youth at YES because of my own growing up, so the organization has always had a special place for me. It’s what kept me involved as a board member for many, many years.”