Mark’s Outdoors founder dead at 52

Mark Whitlock, founder of Mark’s Outdoors Sports in Vestavia Hills Ala., died yesterday in his home after losing his battle with lymphoma, a type of cancer.

Under his direction, Whitlock’s store became one of the top 10 outdoor retail locations in the nation. He bought and renamed the store in 1981. Whitlock’s contribution to the outdoors goes beyond selling guns and fishing tackle. The Mark’s Outdoors Lay Lake Open tournament regularly draws 200-plus boats, and the proceeds are used to buy fingerling bass which are turned loose in the lake afterward.

Bassmaster Elite Series pro Randy Howell has fond memories of Whitlock, mostly due to Whitlock’s generous, caring nature.

“Mark was more than just a guy who loved to fish and hunt. He was an ambassador for our sport, and all the outdoors,” Howell said. “He was very vocal about conservation and making outdoorsmen responsible for the resource. I hope others follow his example by stocking fingerlings in other fisheries around the country.

“The thing I remember most, though, was his giving heart and caring nature. When you walked into Mark’s store, he acted like he’d known you for years. He had a big heart for kids and charities. I directed everyone who called me asking for donations for a charity tournament to Mark, and he never let anyone down. He’d take stuff off the shelves and never thought twice about it. That’s no doubt why his business has been so blessed and successful, because he truly cared.”

Whitlock is survived by his wife Dana, daughter Shelley and son Mark Patrick.

As of this writing, services for Whitlock have not yet been announced.

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