The late Gary Poole, former co-owner of Buckeye Marine in Bobcaygeon, Ontario, is this year's inductee into the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) Canada's Hall of Fame. The induction took place on Tuesday morning in front of over 240 industry members at the NMMA Canadian Recreational Boating Industry Session during the Toronto International Boat Show at the Direct Energy Centre.
Gary Poole's career achievements and contribution to the recreational boating industry were recognized, with his wife Debbie Poole, and their children, Carly and Jay Poole, accepting the award on his behalf.
The NMMA Hall of Fame is the Association's highest honour. It was established in 1988 and recognizes individuals who have, or continue to generate, substantial and lasting contributions toward the advancement of the marine industry. It honours individuals whose names and deeds are synonymous with the pursuit of quality, innovation, and perfection within their respective spheres of expertise.
"Gary Poole has dedicated his career not only to his thriving business, but to growing and improving the boating industry,' said Donald Dubois, NMMA Canada Chairman and President of Princecraft Boats. "Gary's strong leadership abilities and commitment to the industry was second to none and I am honoured to be announcing his induction to the NMMA Hall of Fame.'
As the third generation owner of Buckeye Marine, Gary built substantial growth in sales and service. He helped take the business to a new level in 1989 when it moved to a large boat sales and service facility along the highway, where the business still stands today. Gary Poole was a great contributor to the Recreational Boating Centre of Excellence at Georgian College in Midland, Ontario as well as a leader on the Trent Severn Waterways issues the industry faced last year. He also served on the Toronto Boat Show Committee with his wife Debbie Poole. NMMA Canada says Gary Poole's achievements have left an unquestionable legacy in the recreational boating industry.
Gary Poole married Debbie in 1980, the same year he earned his tech certificate – which he kept current until he passed away last year. He bought into the marine business in 1982, the same year Carly was born. Jay was born two years later. Gary Poole served on many dealer councils over his career, including Mercury Marine, Bombardier Finance and GE Commercial Distribution Finance as well as served on many other industry boards and committees. He was on the Toronto International Boat Show committee since its inception, working 40 consecutive boat shows. He believed in dealer certification, prompting Buckeye Marine to become the first five-star rated dealer in Canada. He was also a supporter of Boating Ontario's Clean Marine program, helping Buckeye to become one of the first dry-land businesses to join.
Dubois then shared the following statements about Gary Poole from various industry members who knew and worked with him.
"From the first time that I met Gary in the mid 90s, he proved to be one of my biggest supporters in the marine industry and a person I could trust to bounce ideas off of and look for advice,' said Brian Milligen, Mustang Survival's Director of Sales – US Recreation and Canada Recreation/Professional markets. "I consider Gary to be more than a business acquaintance, but a friend. He was open, encouraging and honest and was not afraid to say something that needed to be said. It was my experience that Gary was willing to mentor to the level that one was willing to accept that mentorship and I'm thankful for his selfless experience, knowledge and friendship that he showed me. Gary set a great example as a businessman but an even better example as a husband to Debbie, father to Carly and Jay, and friend to many in the industry.'
"I was very grateful for having worked with Gary for 15 years,' said Al Donaldson, Executive Director of Boating Ontario. "Gary was one of the most zealous persons within the boating industry, he always led by example. He was the first to step up to the table and volunteer his time and resources to support the industry. When we needed support to create a Recreational Boating Centre of Excellence at Georgian College, Gary was the first person to make a contribution. He not only donated money, he cared a great deal for the young people in the program. When you found a good idea for your business, you'd find Gary had already done it six months ago. I can honestly say that I never once called where Gary wasn't there with advice and assistance. The boating industry has lost a great leader who was an inspiration to all that he knew.'
Jim Lane, Buck Pegg, Ann Baldree and Gary Beck from Chaparral Boats said the following: "Chaparral Boats has been a proud partner with Buckeye marine for 22 years. Gary Poole was a dynamic individual who always greeted us with a warm smile and open heart. We had a great respect and friendship with Gary as a solid trustworthy individual whose actions and deeds were always driven by honesty and integrity. Gary's love for his family was always evident and spoke volumes of his character. Gary's legacy will continue through his wife Debbie, daughter Carly and son Jay. Gary left an indelible mark on the marine industry and on those individuals fortunate enough to know him.'
In honour of Gary Poole's life and work, Chaparral boats made a $1000 donation in his name to the Simcoe-Muskoka Regional Cancer Program at Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie, Ontario.
"Gary would be extremely humbled and honoured at this recognition of his contribution to the industry – thank you all so much,' said Debbie Poole as she accepted the award on Gary's behalf. "So many of us here understand the passion involved in to stay in any business for such a long time and with so much enthusiasm for its purpose. Gary worked relentlessly to ensure everyone's experience was a great one. He showed us that success was not a given, nor was it exclusive. He truly felt that every one of you in this room could be successful if you worked hard for it, and so he gave selflessly of his knowledge and skill at every opportunity. He had lots of sayings. One of is favourites that he would always say was: the only place that success comes before work is the dictionary. His level of energy and passion was matched only by his physical efforts. He inspired us with his teaching, coaching, mentoring but most of all his doing – every day of his life. Although we would rather it be Gary accepting this award in the flesh, we know he is here in spirit. We are privileged to accept it on his behalf. We thank the NMMA for acknowledging Gary's efforts and for all of your kind words. I hope you all feel as we do that we are blessed to have had him in our lives even though he was taken far too soon.'
Debbie Poole then ended her tribute to Gary with the words of Dr. Seuss: "Don't be sad because it's over, be happy because it happened.'