NRS founder Bill Parks passes

Bill Parks, the founder and president of watercraft, apparel and accessories supplier Northwest River Supplies (NRS) has passed away peacefully at the age of 88.

The company announced he had died of natural causes at St. Luke’s Hospital in Boise, Idaho on March 5th.

A statement from NRS said: “It is with heavy hearts filled with fond memories, laughter, love and respect that we inform you all of the passing of Bill Parks.

“Bill was known as a businessman, river runner, and educator, but he was foremost a humanitarian. He leaves behind a 50-year legacy of serving customers and community, people and the planet, steadfast in his belief that business can be a force for good in the world.”

When Bill started NRS, his business philosophy was considered unorthodox by many of his peers as he believed that a company could aspire to have a positive impact on the lives of its customers and employees and to be a force for good in the world. He wanted to start his own company, in part, to simply prove his ideas could work.

The catalyst for NRS was a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon back in 1969 and noticed the potential for the sport to grow and for a company to supply quality gear and a commitment to service.

In 1972, Bill took $2,000 of his personal savings, stocked an inventory of gear in his garage and started Northwest River Supplies, Inc.

He continued to build NRS while teaching full time at the University of Idaho, often hiring students to assist customers, help out in the warehouse and fulfil orders.

It grew into a multi-million-dollar international company and in 2013 Bill began taking steps to plan for a future without him. While he had received numerous offers from investors over the years, he decided to invest in what he believed in: the people. Bill helped finance a deal to transfer all NRS stock to the company’s workers and in early 2014 NRS became 100 per cent employee owned.

The NRS statement continued: “Even in his final days, he was discussing business with NRS managers. His wife and best friend, Donna Holmes Parks, was by his side until the end.

“Bill took pleasure in celebrating the NRS 50th anniversary last year and reflecting on the company’s progress, saying, ‘I’m proud to say that NRS is truly led by its people. Sometimes you guys tell me that I’m important to the company and I pretend to believe it. But it’s about the people at NRS now.’”