Donald Oakes

Obituary of Donald Ralph Oakes

Donald Ralph Oakes joined his wife in Heaven on December 20, 2022. He was born July 14, 1926, in Nampa, Idaho. He lived with his parents, Ed and Nannie Oakes, and his older sister, Marie, on their ranch at Ironside, as well as in Ontario. His mom was a schoolteacher at Ironside, so he started his education at the Rouse Creek School, a one-room schoolhouse where she taught. One time during the winter, their horse and buggy got snowed in for a few days at the house they stayed at during the school week, which kept them away from their home. He enjoyed the heavy snow because it meant more rabbit hunting and less school. Eventually, his mom started teaching at schools near Annex and in Ontario, which allowed Donald and Marie to attend school in Ontario. Although they attended school in Ontario, they tried to be in Ironside as much as possible.

Donald graduated from Ontario High School in 1944. He missed his graduation ceremony to escort his cousin’s fiancée across the United States so the cousin could get married before shipping out for WWII. Donald enlisted in the United States Army in 1944 in Boise, Idaho when he was 18 years old. After basic training in California, he was shipped overseas in 1945 on a repurposed and overloaded cruise ship to the Philippines, where he worked in the decoding department. He was transferred to Japan as the war ended and became a driver for General Aiken. During the war, he made lifelong friendships with some of his fellow soldiers and would meet up with them throughout the years to reminisce and support each other. After the war, he went to Drake University to be near Marie and her baby since her husband was missing in action, flying as a pilot during the war. While he was at Drake University, he played football and sang in the choir. They came home to the ranch at Ironside whenever they got the chance, usually driving from Iowa. After graduating from Drake University, Marie married Marvin Ogilvie, one of Donald’s best friends from Drake, and they all returned to Ironside. After returning from college, Donald married Ileana Sherman on September 7, 1952. Eventually, Donald began operating the whole ranch. Through the years he added parcels and sold others. Donald and Ileana lived in Ontario and Ironside for the rest of their lives, and reared their kids, Charles and Karen, dividing their time between Ontario and Ironside.

In 1973, Donald was elected to the Oregon House of Representatives to represent District 59, which at the time included Baker, Wheeler, Grant, and Crook counties as well as a portion of Malheur County. Donald was active in numerous local and state organizations and served on several boards and state commissions, often as a director or officer: Bethany Presbyterian Church Elder, Ontario Elks Lodge, Oregon Wheat Grower’s League, Burnt River School Board, Baker ESD, Malheur County and Oregon State Library Boards, Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, National Cattlemen’s Association, Oregon School Board Association, Malheur County Farm Bureau, Ironside Road District, Ironside Fire District, the Malheur County Republican Central Committee, National School Board Association, Malheur County Board of Education, Water Basin Statewide Advisory Committee, Malheur County Board of Equalization, Oregon Judicial Council, and was appointed the Oregon Delegate to the White House Conference on Libraries.

Donald’s hobbies were hunting, fishing, rock hunting and polishing, traveling, riding horses, camping, and enjoying animals and the outdoors. Donald taught his kids to flip over Powder River gates, do a swinging horseback mount, make every shot count when hunting, and enjoy work. Athletic activities and reading were prized activities from an early age, and he felt they should be lifetime pursuits. Donald enjoyed operating all equipment and not dawdling when driving on the highways. He might have encouraged his teenage son to race him towards the old Snake River Bridge once, then quickly pulled in behind when a cop was seen. He had a great sense of humor and enjoyed teasing anyone where he’d get a reaction, whether it was tossing a roll to someone at the dinner table or trying to outwit his caretakers as he got older. Donald loved helping his grandkids to learn about nature, ranching, and rock hounding. When his first grandchild could sit, he’d have her hitting rocks with his rock hammer in the driveway. He was extremely proud of his kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids and all their accomplishments and rarely missed any of their school activities.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Ed and Nannie Oakes, his wife, Ileana Oakes, sister and brother-in-law, Marie (Marvin) Ogilvie, and son-in-law, Mike Riggin. He is survived by his son, Charles (Sandra) Oakes, daughter, Karen (Dwight) Ramer, granddaughter, Jessica (Drew) Morris, granddaughter, Kristy (Blake) Herman, grandson, Hunter (Anna) Oakes and Hunter’s mother Jean Lindley, great-grandchildren, Caitlyn Wilson, Michael Wilson, and Dalton Morris, and numerous nieces, nephews, and other beloved family members.

The family really appreciates the care Donald and Ileana received from their long-time doctor, Dr. Paul Gering, as well as the kind care they were surrounded with at Sunset Estates. A joint memorial service for Donald and Ileana will be held at the Bethany Presbyterian Church in Ontario, Oregon on March 25th at 2:00 p.m. There will be a graveside service in Ironside on March 26th at 3:00 p.m. Donations in lieu of flowers can be made in Donald and Ileana’s name to a church of your choice or the Donald & Ileana Oakes Memorial Scholarship at Ontario High School.

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