Orange Beach, Alabama: Child actor Spanky McFarland brought laughter, energy, compassion and devoted friendship to the beloved Our Gang comedy films in the 1930s. Now, 80 years later, another Spanky is being honored for the same wonderful traits, with marinas and tournament weigh scales replacing Hollywood sets.
In a special ceremony at the captain's meeting for this year's Blue Marlin Grand Championship, Dennis "Spanky" Hill was named the recipient of the 2016 perpetual Gulf Legends Award Wednesday evening. The award was created to recognize those who have made a significant long-term impact on sport fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, whether they are boat owners, sponsors, captains, crew, tournament volunteers or others. Hill has worked in the marine and sport-fishing industry his entire life. He currently serves as the tournament liaison and public relations repre-sentative for Galati Yacht Sales, based in Destin, Florida.
"I can't think of a better recipient for this year's award than Spanky," said BMGC Tournament Director Scott Burt. "He's always there whenever anyone needs help, whether that's tracking down a critical part, rigging baits, hanging banners or muscling fish to the scales. He always has a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye. But he never seeks out the spotlight; he's as humble and hard-working as they come. Spanky is the epitome of all that is good and wonderful about this great sport."
Spanky was born in Somerville, New Jersey and moved to Bradenton, Florida with his family as a teenager. His initiation in the marine industry began while working for his father at the family owned Trailer Estates Marina in Bradenton. From painting boat bottoms to selling parts, gas, bait, setting up events or delivering boats, Spanky did whatever was needed. That broad experience and "can-do" attitude was the springboard for his next career phase.
Joe Galati, who was the managing partner at the Galati Perico Harbor Marina, hired Spanky to work in the rigging department in the early 1990s. As Galati Yacht Sales grew, he continued to demonstrate his versatility and commitment, moving from Anna Maria to St. Petersburg before finally settling at the Destin office in 2003 in his current position.
Spanky loves to fish and has competed in the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic with A Work of Art and Controlled Chaos in previous events. While fishing with Capt. Chris Galati aboard the Team Galati Viking during the Pensacola International Billfish Tournament in 2006, he landed his first blue marlin, a 383-pounder. To celebrate one of the happiest days of his life, Spanky had an image of the marlin tattooed on his leg.
When he's not fishing or working tournaments and boat shows, Spanky enjoys riding his Harley Davidson with his wife of 36 years, Beth, cooking BBQ for family and friends or walking his faithful dog, Cody.
The Gulf Legends commemorative piece, an original custom painting from marine artist Larry Rackley, represents an uplifting of the sport by the individuals who have worked so hard over the years to make it successful. The award is presented annually during the Blue Marlin Grand Championship and will be on permanent display at The Wharf Marina Outfitters Store, located at The Wharf in Orange Beach, Alabama.
Orignally published by the Blue Marlin Grand Championship