Passing of a Humble Giant
R OGER PARKS, A DEAR FRIEND to this magazine and especially to us, personally, passed away on April 19 at his home in Seminole, Oklahoma. Roger and Pam, his wife of more than forty years, recently retired from Blue Wave Boats, the business they founded with their two sons Richard and Steven twenty-six years ago. They were looking forward to new adventures in well-earned golden years.
Life is a precious and fleeting gift and none of us knows how much of it we’ve been blessed with until it’s over. If the main lesson of that cruel irony is that we should make the most out of what time we have been given, Roger Parks was the perfect example of how to do it.
He was the creative force behind Blue Wave Boats, which has been the top-selling bay boat brand in Texas for more than two decades. Roger was born into the business, in a part of Arkansas that has been the nesting ground for many legendary brands of fishing boats.
After Roger had worked with his father for several years building custom boats in his hometown, he and Pam moved their family to Checotah, Oklahoma, where they were both employed by a boat manufacturer. Roger, with strong engineering talents, was the chief designer for the company while Pam worked on the business side. In the early 1990s, circumstances with their employer changed and the couple decided to launch their own boat building company.
That decision created a true American success story.
At the time, Richard was a teenager and Steven was on the verge of becoming one, and with their two sons signed on as shop staff, Roger and Pam started Parks Manufacturing, Inc., DBA Blue Wave Boats, in what was basically a garage.
They already had a solid reputation with dealers and with Roger’s visionary talent for boat design and Pam’s almost supernatural gift for management, they entered the coastal boat market with a splash. Roger’s innovative hull design was an almost instant hit. Their distinctive “Wave” logo helped set their new brand apart, as did Roger’s keen understanding of customer expectations and his ability to anticipate what potential buyers might want in a boat.
We first met them when they began running one-third-page black & white ads in texas fish & game in 1993. As sales grew exponentially, their ads got bigger and more colorful. Their production capacity and dealer base expanded as well, and before long their boats were all over the country.
From the beginning, we developed a strong friendship with both of these special people as well as with their two young sons, who possessed maturity and sense of purpose well beyond their years.
Roger’s enthusiasm for building things was infectious. Whether he was describing the complex methods for turning out a mold for a 22-foot hull, or plans for the 165,000-foot plant they built at their new headquarters in Seminole, or describing the cutting edge geothermal heating and cooling system he was installing in their new home, it was impossible not to be captivated and want to join him in whatever work held his attention.
Despite becoming a huge success in a relatively short time, Roger never changed. A true giant in his industry—a highly competitive industry that is unique for the fact that the bulk of its manufacturing has stayed in America—Roger maintained his soft-spoken, humble manner in everything he did.
Roger’s passing is a huge loss to his family and the countless people who knew him as a friend. But we all take comfort in the remarkable way he used the precious time he was given on Earth. He created a successful business with his beloved wife, and together they built products that have brought joy and togetherness to thousands of families. He and Pam raised two sons whose vision and ethics mirror those of their parents and who will no doubt work to ensure that the legacy of their father’s creation will live on. In our book, that is a life worth celebrating.