Bortnick Family Bond Comes From Strong Roots
For the Bortnick family, being there for each other is never a question. Noah Bortnick, Junior Competition Manager for USTA Missouri Valley, said tennis has been a huge part of the lives of he and his brother, Josh, since they were young.
Noah graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in Sport Management and was an avid player throughout college. He still plays as much tennis as possible. Josh is entering his final year of eligibility at the University of Arkansas. But before their venture into adulthood - or collegiate tennis - the brothers played doubles together as juniors and for a time at Pembroke Hill School in Kansas City.
Tennis is a sport from which Josh and Noah have learned many life lessons. Growing up, Noah said all of he and his brother’s best friends came from tennis. When they weren’t practicing with the school tennis team, they worked on their game at Kansas City United Tennis (KCUT).
It definitely had its challenges, but one of the strongest friendships Noah and Josh made was with each other.
“It was so much fun to travel the country with our best friends, playing tournaments, playing tennis,” Noah said. “At the same time, Josh and I definitely bonded a ton over it. It was hard at times, but looking back at it, some of my best memories are on the tennis court with Josh.”
Their mom, Lila, has been there for her sons’ tennis journeys. Noah and Josh agree it’s that sense of family and working hard to achieve their dreams that came from Lila. Lila maintains it comes from her and their father, Dan, equally.
“I think I am a very behind-the-scenes type person,” Lila said. “I think I did everything I could to push my children to be the best they can be. So if it was setting up lessons, or helping them keep track of things or making sure they had a snack, I did those kinds of things.”
Because of strong family roots from both Lila and Dan, love of family and hard work are built into the Bortnick family fabric. On Lila’s side of the family, that starts in the Philippines.
In the 1960s, the U.S. was asking for medical workers and Lila’s father fit the bill. He came to St. Louis to complete his medical residency shortly after Lila was born. Lila and her mother waited in the Philippines until the proper documentation was complete so they could join him. Meanwhile, Lila’s mother was an attorney in the Philippines and was practicing law at a firm with Beningo Aquino, who was a powerful political figure. Aquino was later assassinated.
Lila and her mother joined Lila’s father in the U.S. when Lila was 2-years-old. After some time in St. Louis, and a brief stint in Pennsylvania, they found themselves in Marceline, Mo. Marceline, a town of approximately 3,000 in mid-Missouri, is best known as the birthplace of Walt Disney. It’s where Lila and her family settled.
Being the only Asian family in town wasn’t entirely problem-free, but Lila said with the support of her family, she had a good childhood. She said she did at times wish she looked like everyone else.
“I think my mother lived a life in the Philippines that she very much loved. But because my father was in the United States she thought we would have better opportunities here and maybe reluctantly - and happily for me - decided to uproot us and come here. I think that is probably the most sacrificing thing they could have done. I have had a great life here. Probably even more than I realize.”
Lila’s mother is a strong personality and as such, had Lila’s life all mapped out for her. She could choose between being a doctor or lawyer and because the family is Catholic, had to attend a Catholic university. Lila had no interest in law and no desire to become a doctor. Nursing was the alternative and Rockhurst University in Kansas City was selected. As a nursing student, she met Dan through mutual friends. When she was in her early twenties, Lila also completed the work to become an American citizen.
Dan and Lila married and settled in the Kansas City area. They have four children - Gaby, Hannah, Josh and Noah. Hannah was a collegiate diver at the University of Arkansas. Gaby wrapped up her senior year in 2021 at Pembroke Hill School and will keep the Bortnick tradition alive, signing to dive for the Razorbacks.
Lila said that she and her husband were sure to instill in her kids the importance of sportsmanship and doing the right thing in athletics and other activities.
“I don’t think I was the parent that did too much of the talking, for example, with the coaches. I made sure that was their responsibility to get done. I think that is a very important trait to learn early on. Not just in sports, but in everything you want to do in life because when you’re seven years old it seems like a good idea to have your mom do the talking, when you’re 21 it’s definitely not appropriate.”
The family is undeniably close-knit. They also appreciate the time they spend together. Lila said her father’s family - brothers and sisters - remain in the Philippines. He will likely never see them again. Her mother’s family immigrated to the United States.
It’s those family ties that Josh and Noah appreciate the most - along with the sacrifice that their grandparents made all those years ago.
“There’s nothing Noah and I can do to thank our parents enough for the opportunities they have provided for us,” Josh said. “The opportunities my siblings and I have been very lucky to have all come from the decision by my grandparents to uproot their lives from the Philippines to come here. My mom worked very hard and I didn’t realize it until I was older. She did all the things she did so I could have it easier.”
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