Flying Sparks

Flying Sparks Feb 24, 2023
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Les Sparks retires from Mercury Marine after 51 years.

by Bill Jennings

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Les Sparks holding his Lifetime Membership award from Boating Ontario.

After 51 years with Mercury Marine Canada, Les Sparks is flying high into retirement. With his numerous nationwide contacts and dealer activities, Sparks is a well known fixture throughout the industry.  I guess you could say that Les learned the marine business from the ground up. He began in the warehouse and worked his way through parts coordination, engine sales coordination, and finally his current post as business development manager.  In this role he was responsible for over 250 dealers in Ontario and Quebec. 

As ‘business development manager’, Les was instrumental in the establishment and training of Mercury Marine dealers and worked tirelessly as only a man who loved his work could. One of his major accomplishments was earning the Brunswick President’s Award for being the company’s “top outboard sales representative, worldwide”.  But “sales” was not the only responsibility that Les handled. Training was a key activity. He presented numerous packaged management training courses to his dealers and helped boat manufacturers set up distribution through his dealer and marina network.

Les proudly told me that thanks to his career with Mercury, he has travelled across Canada and the USA and met some of the best people and companies in the marine industry. From my experience, I can tell you that a significant number of boat tests that I have conducted, were set up for me by Les.

Les’ private life is also interesting. He made good use of the limited time he had for personal activities. He and his wife, Joan, have raised four girls and live on a 33-acre property, on the shores of Lake Nippissing. This homesite in itself, sets Les apart from most other people in sales.  As you would expect, Les loves boating and goes fishing whenever possible. He also hunts deer, bear, moose and wild boar. In short, he is an avid outdoorsman. When time permits he enjoys woodworking in his woodshop. One hobby that I was not aware of, is his love of gardening, He is very proud of the produce and gardens that the family cultivate on their expansive property.

One of his major accomplishments was earning the Brunswick President’s Award for being the company’s  “top outboard sales representative, worldwide”.

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From left to right Mercury Marine’s Andres Ruiz, Richard Straka, Les Sparks, Cameron Racine, and Ken Boyd.

Sparks was rudely introduced to life on the road in 1976.  Driving his first dealer tour, he was nearing Smithers, B.C., when the temperature dropped to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit.  His car froze solid, including the gas in his fuel line.  But with a little gas line antifreeze he managed to continue to Fort St. John, where he was hit with an 18” snow fall. This did not seem to faze Les and he continued calling upon dealers for another 46 years. But he always carried a shovel in his trunk.

The huge number of marine dealers and boat manufacturers who have sent Les their best wishes for his retirement, is a tribute to his excellent service to Mercury. And to top it all, the National Marine Manufacturers Association has announced they are inducting Les into the NMMA Sales Hall of Fame. 

As Les himself puts it, “After more than 50 years with Mercury Marine, 24 company cars, 2.5 million miles of driving, 3,600 nights in a hotel, I am announcing my retirement.”  We wish Les Sparks a retirement as colourful and productive as his career.  


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