Mark Lento was born and bred in the Elk Valley. He was born in 1968 at the old Fernie Hospital, located where Park Place Lodge is now. He was born to Frank and Maureen Lento (nee Harrington), and he remembers the doctor who delivered him, Dr. East.
“I think he delivered everyone,” says Mark, who became an older brother to his sister Marnie when he was four years old.
Growing up, his father worked in the education system, as a teacher and then principal of the local schools while his mother worked at the old EK Radio Station as a secretary and ad sales representative.
Even though his father was a teacher and principal, Mark says the only class his father taught him was physical education in the first grade. Mark graduated from Fernie Secondary School in 1986 and recently celebrated his 30th reunion, meeting up with classmates he hasn’t seen in three decades.
Mark grew up near the Airport and played golf and hockey as a young boy. He remembers days of following his dad around the golf course, riding on the back of his golf cart with an 8 iron that his dad cut down to fit him. He continues to play golf regularly and still enjoys rounds of golf with his father.
Hockey was a huge part of Mark’s childhood, and he played right wing for the Elk Valley Raiders when he was in high school. In 1987, Mark had the opportunity to go to the Canada Winter Games in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, with Team B.C. for hockey, where the team, under the leadership of Tom Renney, won the bronze medal. Renney went on to coach the Vancouver Canucks and the Edmonton Oilers, among other high profile teams.
In 1991, Mark stopped playing hockey at a performance level and was working as a bartender at the Motor Inn. Under the advice of his uncle, he took at job at the local Overwaitea grocery store as a clerk and bag boy. Unbeknownst to him at the time, that put him on a career path that he is still on today.
One night in June of 1995, Mark was at the bar with his friends when he noticed a pretty woman in the bar. As he says he was “lucky enough to buy her a drink.” Her name was Valerie and she was from Newfoundland and was just visiting family. All it took was one drink for Mark to know that she was ideal for him. Mark and Valerie married two years later, on August 1, 1997. The couple welcomed twins into the world – Madison and Tanner – and raised their family in the same house that Mark was raised in, in the Airport.
Over the years, Mark worked his way up to store manager and is celebrating 25 years with the company. This year, he oversaw the transition of Overwaitea into Save-On-Foods, and continues to give his support to local groups and initiatives. He describes his time with the company as “the best job I could think of. I don’t regret it for a second.”
As Mark says, “it doesn’t get much more local than me.” Both of his parents are from the area and Mark estimates he is related to seven surnames in the area.
Over the years, he has seen the evolution of the Elk Valley from a well-kept secret into the tourist destination it has now become.
With his role in the community and raising his family in the Elk Valley, Mark is a great example of being locally grown, which makes him a fascinating Face of the Valley.