May 26, 2014

Hillsdale drowning victim was Mark Selbee, a champion kickboxer and devoted dad

Authorities on Monday identified Mark Selbee as the victim of the drowning Saturday in Hillsdale Lake in Miami County. Selbee, 45, not only was a devoted husband and the father of three children, he also was a four-time champion kickboxer who retired from competition in 2006.

Mark A. Selbee, 45, who drowned Saturday at Hillsdale Lake in Miami County while on a boating outing with two of his three children, was not only a devoted father, but also a four-time champion kickboxer who retired from competition in 2006.

A friend speaking for the family confirmed Selbee’s identity Monday evening, although even by Sunday word of the respected athlete’s drowning had already spread on Facebook and in Georgia kickboxing circles where Selbee was best known.

“His kids lived for him and he lived for his kids,” said the long-time friend, Jarrod Townsend. “Mark’s passion was people. The most important people in his life were his family and his friends.”

A Washburn University graduate who was born and raised in Topeka, Selbee moved with his wife and their three children from Atlanta to Leawood about five months ago to be close to family and friends. Between 2002 and 2006, Selbee won four championships with the International Kickboxing Federation, once as an amateur and three times as a professional. He also was a third-degree black belt in tae kwon do.

“I think everyone is shocked because no one has found out exactly what happened,” said David Oblas, a Atlanta kickboxing promotor who said he once worked with Selbee and has known him for 15 years. “Mark was 6-foot-4, 220 pounds and solid muscle. Not only was he a great athlete, he had an extreme determination.”

After Selbee’s retirement, he became a well-known kickboxing trainer in Atlanta. “He was extremely well-liked,” Oblas said. “It’s a brutal sport, but Mark is someone everyone looked up to.”

Married to Amy Selbee, Selbee was father to three elementary school-age children, Easton, Ellie Brooke and Hudson.

Townsend said he spoke to Selbee only hours before the accident Saturday. Selbee, Townsend said, had just rented a slip the day before and was excited to drop his motorboat in the water and take the kids out. Earlier reports suggested that Selbee might have left the boat to go in for a swim, leaving his two children on the craft in their life jackets.

Exactly how or why Selbee came to be in the water is still unknown. The cause of death won’t be known until an autopsy. Townsend, however, said it would have been incredibly unlike his friend to leave the his children on the boat alone.

“Mark was extremely responsible and his kids were his life,” Townsend said, “He was so protective of his children he would not have gone in the water for a swim.”

There is little visibility beneath the surface of the murky lake. Sonar was used in the rescue effort, which ended when Selbee’s body was recovered early Sunday evening.

Townsend called his friend “gregarious, bigger than life; he was kind and magnetic. And he was an incredible dad.”

A fund-raising campaign for the family has already been established on the site giveforward.com.

A celebration of Selbee’s life is scheduled for 11 a.m. to noon Friday at United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, 13720 Roe Ave. in Leawood.

To reach Eric Adler, call 816-234-4431 or send email to eadler@kcstar.com.

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