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We Know … Bay Roberts
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When you move to a new place it’s interesting to find out about the people who built it to be what it is.
When owners and registered therapists Chris Cluett and Justin Whittle expanded ProActive and opened Strive Express Fitness into Bay Roberts, they were pleased to discover one of the defining characters in that town was Wilbur Sparkes. His story – while eventful – also embodied ProActive’s values: community, sport, passion, and education.
Unpacking and having a look around
When we moved to Bay Roberts we knew it was a huge opportunity for us to make an impact on the wellness of the town; with a focus on both preventative actions and recovery. It was only a bonus that we would discover a rich history of athletics and sport too!
The Wilbur Sparkes Recreation Complex is one of the defining buildings in this town, but we wanted to know who it was named for and why, we became fascinated by the Wilbur Sparkes story.
Wilbur Sparkes was born in Massachusetts, but both his parents were from Bay Roberts and they moved back to the community when he was a small boy. Wilbur started playing hockey on Trinity Bay ponds and grew up to be a teacher.
While at Memorial University College in the late 1940s, he was an avid hockey player. He later made the St. John’s senior baseball league’s hall of fame as a pitcher, and served as a hockey, baseball and soccer coach at Bishop Field School.
Before retiring in 1988, Wilbur’s daughter teased him into running for mayor and and even paid his $25 entry fee. He won and served from 1981 to 2005.
"Everybody got a big surprise. No one expected me to become mayor. I didn't know myself, really," Sparkes jokes in an interview with the Compass in 2011. "When you're doing it, really you don't think that much about making a contribution to your town. It's all part of your day's work."
When they name a building after you
In 2005, in honour of his years of service and his contribution to athletics in the province, the Town of Bay Roberts named its new recreation complex the Wilbur Sparkes Recreation Complex.
The complex also represents the variety of the sports played by Wilbur throughout his career, offering a ball hockey court, softball field, basketball court, a regulation sized soccer pitch, tennis courts, and a playground.
Sparkes still flying
One interesting story we read, talked about one of Wilbur’s accomplishments, helping host the first outdoor NHL game.
Long before the popular outdoor games like the Winter Classics and Stadium Series, Bay Roberts hosted the Boston Bruins in a series of games against local teams. While Wilbur was an avid and successful hockey player for the Bay Roberts Rovers 60 years ago, he was a spectator that day instead.
Around the bay
At the age of 88, Wilbur can boast a career in community service, many accolades for his baseball and hockey career; he was still playing hockey at 76! We even found this video interview with Wilbur talking about his incredible life.
We can only hope to be around as long, and to make as much of an impact as Bay Roberts’ hero Wilbur Sparkes.
If you’d like to find out more about what we do in Bay Roberts, get in touch. Or signup for our newsletter and discover more great sports stories and community leaders right in your inbox (bonus: You could win a free massage!)
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