ALVIN PARKHURST - PARKHURST TRANSPORTATION LTD.
BCC LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD 2019
When we consider Lifetime Achievement, we look at the cornerstones… citizenship , founder, vision, mentor…
The ongoing theme through almost every story I have the privilege of listening to starts with a bit of “this wasn’t what I planned on “ or “it just kind of happened” – I think we need to recognize this theme doesn’t demonstrate a lackadaisical approach to business, but rather their innate understanding that you always open the door when opportunity knocks, even if you’re not expecting the guest.
Our recipient this year started early – completing formal education at the age of 14, he started working full-time at A&P as a delivery boy, working his way up to assistant manager within 4 years.
When asked what his best advice might be – the answer was – “join the navy”. At the age of 17, his intention was to join a friend who wanted to avoid being drafted to the army, so they slipped off to Kingston where his friend was promptly sent off to York while he was shipped east to Nova Scotia and served on the HMCS Sackville. He made it as far as the English Channel on the torpedo boats before he was sent home to Belleville for a couple of months on leave. And then the war was over.
He used his Veteran’s allowance to buy Lamour’s Taxi and launched Diamond Taxi – a real family affair. Following a tragic accident, insurance costs became prohibitive so he closed the business and started working the railroad.
He had also started a family (two boys - born 11 months apart) and after 8 years away, his wife decided that was enough and he needed to find work at home. He got back into the delivery business – this time with his own truck – and worked for A&P as well as Dominion – with enough work to buy two more trucks and hire his father and brother.
Many times through my conversation, he circled back to the importance of family. So it was no surprise to hear that when a need arose to support his oldest son, Greg, reach his potential, he and his wife along with a small group of parents – started the Retarded Children’s Association – and that’s when the real story begins. Volunteering to drive that first bus donated by the Junior Red Cross, the shift from transporting groceries to children started. As the student population and the demand increased, he then acquired a Pontiac station wagon and then along with the Red Cross bus continued to expand. When the RC Association was taken over by the local school board they expanded again and continued providing transportation to local students with special needs. The Mobility Bus project started by recognizing another community need. They are a fixture in transportation for the disabled in Belleville, and have seen many of our passengers grow and thrive in the community because of the service the Mobility Bus has offered, with the generous support from the City of Belleville.
The rest, as they say, is history. Now with 50 buses and nearly 100 employees, transporting thousands of children to school safely each day, Parkhurst Transportation is just one business keeping Alvin busy; 7 vehicles with Tripps Unlimited, 2 mobility buses for the City of Belleville, real estate and bringing in soup on a cold day keep him on his toes. He will be 93 this year but still comes in every morning to greet the drivers – or rather, his family.
Going back to his advice about joining the Navy, Alvin attributes that experience with providing him a strong work ethic. But in speaking with him, I’m pretty sure that was already well established. His commitment to service and family wasn’t above self, it was self. This man continually found ways to help his community – from starting an association that evolved into the integration of people with special needs into mainstream schools to 35 years of service with the Lions Club, for which he has won almost every award imaginable, 40 years with the Legion and about 7 with the Army Navy, he is a visionary, founder and mentor. He is most proud of Humanitarian Award from the Royal Canadian Air Force Association of which he was the first recipient in 1981 from the 418 wing.
He insists that the key to success is about hard work, treating everyone like family and getting along with everyone.
He also attributes a great deal of the success to his late son, Jim – who he says “was the business ” Jim joined the business at an early age, driving, working on buses and operating the business for over 42 years of his life, until he passed away in November 2010. Jim’s wife Brenda joined the family business in 1974. Over the years many family members have worked for the company including some of Alvin’s siblings as well as his grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Parkhurst epitomizes a family business and is a great example of how generations can work together successfully. He is just waiting for his youngest great-granddaughter Carley to come on board so Sherry can retire.