James "Milton" Oakley, 73, was called home on Oct. 26, 2013, after a courageous battle with melanoma. Milton tackled his illness with all of the tenacity that was characteristic of how he approached life. His faith in eternal life and his love for family sustained him through the last few months of his illness. Milton had a dry wit and self-effacing sense of humor that will be missed by all who knew him.
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The son of James Leonard and Janie Oakley, Milton was born on September 5, 1940 in Danville, Va. A graduate of Warwick High School in Newport News, Va., Milton embraced hard work, whether physical or mental and this became a hallmark of his character. He began his career in 1958 at the Newport News Shipyard Apprentice School as a pattern designer and won a full scholarship to the University of Michigan. He earned two bachelor degrees in both Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics. In 1967, he won the only National Society of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering scholarship in the USA. He returned to the University of Michigan and earned a Masters in Mechanical Engineering.
He worked for the Newport News Shipyard in the design department for 17 years. Milton left the shipyard in 1974 to work for the Norfolk Naval Yard in the design department. In 1978, he went to work for the Naval Sea Support Center. He retired in 2001, as the mechanical engineering department head. After retiring from the government, he worked for AMSEC, LLC for 12 years.
Warm summer evenings found Milton working in his backyard garden that he tended with care. Growing on towering plants up to seven feet tall, his tomatoes will live on in legend as being among the tastiest that could be found.
Milton is survived by his wife of 20 years, Patricia O. Oakley of the home, two daughters Tamara Oakley Perdue and her husband Philip of Greenville, NC. Lynn Oakley Mosby and husband Steve of Harwood, Md., and stepson Steve Rowell and wife Sharri of Chesapeake, Va., as well as six grandchildren Meredith, Lauren and Philip Perdue and Hannah, Anderson and Hope Mosby. Milton is also survived by a sister, Nancy O. Childress and husband Buddy of Newport News, Va. and a brother Rick Oakley of Charlotte.
Although there were many health professionals and friends that lent their support and expertise, the family would especially like to thank Brittany, Joan, Lisa and Dee of Compassionate Care (Chesapeake). Their many words and acts of kindness made every difficulty bearable.
A Celebration of Milton's life will be held at First Baptist Church, Norfolk, Va. on Friday, Nov. 8, 2013 at 11 a.m. to be followed by a casual luncheon in the fellowship hall. Anyone wishing to honor Milton's memory is encouraged to make a contribution to: UVa Health Foundation (Melanoma Research), c/o Allen DeGuzman, Director of Development, 2410 Old Ivy Rd, Second Floor, Charlottesville, VA, 22903.
Published in The Daily Reflector on Nov. 1, 2013