Kenneth William Parks, son of the founder of Great Lakes Boat Top, died April 27 at his home in Placida, Fla. He was 82.
Parks’ parents started Great Lakes Boat Top in a Detroit, Michigan, garage in 1957. The company specialized in patterning and producing canvas enclosures, Bimini tops and covers for boat builders.
In the early days, his father would pattern the pieces and his mother would sew them. As the company’s reputation for quality grew, they moved the business from the garage to a warehouse.
For more than 30 years, Ken and his family operated Great Lakes Boat Top in the Detroit area before moving the company’s headquarters to Tennessee to better serve the extensive client list of boat manufacturers.
“I got my start in the marine industry working for Ken in Michigan,” said Great Lakes Boat Top President Jim Wilson. “Ken attributed the success of the company to having loyal and talented people. He was a humble man. That kind of leadership inspires you to do your best.”
Today Great Lakes Boat Top is owned by Marine Accessories Corp. and is a supplier to the top boat brands in North America. With facilities in Tennessee and Florida, Great Lakes Boat Top also makes replacement canvas available to retail customers with thousands of original patterns dating back more than 24 years.
“Great Lakes Boat Top celebrated its 60th anniversary last year and Ken made a special appearance at our celebration,” Wilson said. “We gave him an embroidered jacket and he was genuinely appreciative and excited to see his legacy has not only endured but flourished.”