Grant Rufus Sparling
Grant Sparling, founder of Sparling’s Propane, passed away peacefully and surrounded by family, May 13, 2015, at Clinton Public Hospital, Clinton, Ontario. Grant was 91 years old.
He was born in Plympton Township, Ontario, a farmer’s son, brother, banker, soldier, entrepreneur, community champion, husband, father and uncle, friend.
Grant was blessed to grow up in a loving, disciplined farm family where, as one of six children, he learned about hard work and mutual accountability and practical jokes. Beyond his family and faith, Grant’s perspective was shaped in large part by the profound impact of The Great Depression and World War II.
As a young man, Grant’s ambition was to become a lawyer, but circumstances did not permit higher education. That meant self-reliance, hard work, life lessons and gratitude for every opportunity, including his first job at the Bank of Commerce in Forest in 1941.
At that time, there were so many people looking for work – and there were so few jobs. During the bank interview process, Grant and the other candidates were handed sheets of foolscap (paper) and, using a quill pen, were instructed to complete a series of calculations. Grant’s gift for math enabled him to land the job and he began a banking career that was soon interrupted when he volunteered for service in the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps. Grant’s overseas deployment orders were cancelled twice and Staff Sargeant Sparling’s accounting skills were put to use at Base Borden from 1943 until 1946, almost a full year after the war ended.
Following the war, Grant resumed his position at the bank and in 1949, began a brief placement at the Blyth Commerce branch on his way to the main branch in Kitchener. While in Blyth, Grant became involved in the community and grew to appreciate the rural beauty and opportunity of the area.
Grant did transfer to Kitchener in 1951 as planned, but he missed Blyth and when he had an opportunity to buy a hardware store there later that same year, he retired from banking and opened Sparling’s Hardware. Grant enjoyed hardware and he envisioned a store that sold everything people in the village and surrounding area might need. Most evenings, he loaded his pickup truck with fence posts, barbed wire and tools and travelled the concessions to meet farmers and to tell them about the store.
Grant worked hard and the business grew. New product lines were added, including home appliances and space and water heaters. Being the entrepreneur he was, Grant began selling propane as a convenience to customers who bought appliances at his store.
In Blyth, Grant met a wonderful lady named Mildred (“Pat”) and in 1959, they were married, and in unique fashion, rode in a fire truck for their wedding procession - years later Grant built his own collection of antique fire trucks. Mildred was the strong woman behind the strong man and together they were clear in their support for the family and in their resolve to manage the challenges of owning and operating a business.
The hardware business continued to grow and in 1963, Grant opened a second location in Clinton. Through the 1970s and 1980s, Grant started a welding supply business and created Sparling’s Liquid Transport, a specialized tank carrier that expanded to serve customers in Central Canada, the U.S. Midwest and as far south as Florida and California. Other businesses were sold over the years, but propane was the core family business and Grant’s sons, Steven and David, joined the company in the 1980s.
Over the past 25 years, Sparling’s Propane grew quietly and significantly, and had become one of the largest propane retailers in Canada when it was purchased by Parkland Fuel Corporation, Calgary in 2013. Grant was proud of the over 150 men and women who worked at Sparling’s seven regional branches and he was so pleased for them when the company was twice named “One of the 50 Best Places to Work in Canada” by The Globe & Mail.
Along the way, Grant was active in the United Church and the Blyth Board of Trade, the Lions Club, he was a life member of Forest Lodge No. 263, Forest Ontario (now Burns Lodge No. 153, Wyoming, Ontario), served 32-years as firefighter/captain with the Blyth & District Fire Department (the “Brigade” as he called it), and was a proud supporter of the Blyth Festival from day one.
Grant retired at 88 years of age, and when asked how he would like to be remembered, always smiled and had the same answer, “tell them that I always did the best I could.” While he did not seek awards and recognition, Grant appreciated receiving the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal and the first Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the Ontario Propane Association.
Grant is survived by his wife, Mildred of Blyth, children, Jim of Auburn, Washington, and Jayne, Steven (Laurie) and David (Annie), all of Blyth, seven grandchildren, and one sister, Jean (Andrew) of Owen Sound.
Visitation will be at Blyth United Church, May 19, 2 p.m. - 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. - 9 p.m. Funeral will be held at Blyth United Church, May 20.
For details, please contact www.falconerfuneralhomes.com/