Feb 26, 2008

Mark Guensch dies in crash

by Daniel Martinez

In the week since Liberty student Mark Guensch, 19, died, members of his family and his many friends have unanimously agreed on one thing — he always smiled.
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“Mark was always smiling — that’s what I’ll remember most,” said Mark’s freshman roommate A.J. Holt.  “He made everything said in a conversation funny, wore mismatching socks every day and never disliked anyone he ever met.”
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Liberty lost the young man known affectionately as “Smilez”  on Sunday, Feb. 17 after he was in a fatal  automobile accident close to his Pennsylvania home around midnight.
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According to the official Web site for the Channel 69 News, wfmz.com, “Mark Guensch of Fogelsville, Pa., was thrown from his car and killed.  The accident happened just before midnight at the intersection of Route 100 and Lowhill Church Road in Lowhill Township. “
“There was another car involved in the crash,” the report continued, “but no one else was seriously injured.”
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“It’s hard to put on paper a lot of the things about Mark, but the first thing I, and most other people, think of is that he always had a way with his smile,” said sophomore Geren Woodbridge.
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Janice Bilger, a junior at Liberty who knew Mark from home, traveled back to Pennsylvania for the funeral that was held on Thursday.
“There were a lot of Liberty kids that came up and filled the bus from Liberty — maybe 50 people,” Bilger said.
Many of Mark’s friends spoke at the funeral, noting his humor and his love for basketball.
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“He was always really helpful — and respectful. In his neighborhood and community, if anyone needed a hand, he would help them out, and he was very respectful to adults and to kids,” Bilger said of Mark, who was referred to as “Gooncho” by friends at home. 
“He had a contagious smile – and he was goofy and always laughing.”
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Although he was only a freshman at Liberty, Mark lived a life that was representative of his strong Christian faith.  Through the grief and beginning stages of healing, those who knew him have refused to overlook one major fact. 
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“He had a heart for the Lord,” said Mark’s older cousin Darren Guensch, who lives in Virginia and works at George Mason University.  “As hard of a time as this is, I think it’s also important that we celebrate his time here and that he’s now with our Lord.”
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Freshman Mark Hager, a dorm mate of Mark’s on East 21, echoed this sentiment, saying, “God is in control, and will do mighty things through this young man’s life.”
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Mark was born on May 24, 1988, in Kansas City, Mo., and his family soon moved to Allentown, Pa.  According to Darren, as Mark grew up, he “was a great example for his three younger brothers — Drew, Matt and Luke.”  Mark was homeschooled from a young age, and, around the time he was in fifth grade, his family began attending Faith Evangelical Free Church, where they are still members.  A constantly active person, Mark loved sports, especially basketball, which all his friends remember as one of the defining aspects of his life.
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Longtime friend Geren Woodbridge noted that “you never saw him without a basketball in his hand.”  An avid fan and player of basketball, Mark played, watched and coached at summer basketball camps. He had a problem with his right shoulder that required two surgeries and kept him from actively playing the game that he loved.
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“Instead of complaining, he just tried to teach himself to shoot left-handed,” Darren said. “His second surgery was in December, and the first thing he said when I saw him last month was, ‘Dude, check out this huge scar on my shoulder!’” 
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Friends and family remember Mark as a young man regularly involved in youth group on Sunday and Wednesday nights. He also worked at many camps with a Christian sports ministry called Push the Rock.  More than anything, however, he showed his heartfelt beliefs through his love for other people.
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“The thing that stuck out to me was how much he loved his family,” said Liberty freshman Scott Clymer, who knew Mark since the third grade.  “We weren’t perfect by any means in high school, but he was always trying to be a better older brother. He knew that Drew, Matt and Luke looked up to him, and he tried to be the best he could.  Then there are his parents, and we both went through hard times in high school with our parents, but he loved them both so much it was unfathomable.”   
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When he came to Liberty University as a freshman to study business, Mark made the transition naturally.  With his likable personality, infectious sense of humor and interests in popular pastimes like Halo, weight-lifting and sports, he won friends immediately. 
“He could make someone’s day that much better just by saying hello,” said freshman Stephanie Donnelly, who was in Mark’s sister dorm, East 8.  “I’m going to miss his company.  When he wasn’t around, the group just felt empty.  He had the ability to make you feel funny even when you weren’t.”
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“Our entire dorm is probably the closest dorm on all of the Liberty campus,” said Mark’s freshman dorm mate Ryan Ecton.  “We all hang out together and eat lunch together every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  And Mark was the guy who, no matter what was going on in your life, would always make you smile.”
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William Zimmerman, a sophomore from Mark’s dorm, remembered that Mark’s love for people made his love for Christ all the more obvious.
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“He always had a smile on his face, and I never heard him refuse a request to help someone else.  He had a big heart, and it had the tendency to ‘rub off on others,’ including myself.”
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Darren, who once stayed with Mark’s family during the summer, remembers “just a lot of time together – playing basketball, eating pizzas that he’d bring home after getting off work at Pizza Hut, Jamocha milkshakes from Arby’s and, if you weren’t paying attention, you were sure to get slapped across your chest with an open hand.”
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Perhaps the best summation of Mark’s life is his own simple words listed under the “About Me” section on his Facebook page: “I don’t like stressin’; I know God has a plan.”

Contact Daniel Martinez at dpmartinez@liberty.edu.


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