Willie J. Oates Jr.
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Willie James Oates Jr. passed away June 22, in Fairbanks. Born June 17, 1930, in Sheffield, Alabama, Willie had recently traveled from his home in Florence, Alabama, to Fairbanks and celebrated his 84th birthday with relatives. He succumbed to a heart attack five days later.
A soldier, a father, a husband, a friend, a grandfather, and a leader, Willie was many things to many people. After a short stint in the U.S. Army, Willie joined the U.S. Air Force where he served proudly for 23 years. Before retiring at Eielson Air Force Base in 1971, he was stationed in places on the other side of both oceans and numerous bases in the United States. So proud of his service, after retirement, he was rarely seen not wearing his "U.S. Air Force retired" baseball hat.
After retiring, Willie remained in Fairbanks for a number of years, employed in various positions, including a time at the Fairbanks North Star Borough School district, before moving to Anchorage and eventually back to Florence, Alabama, just across the river from where he was born. There wasn't a room in which he didn't naturally gravitate to the center or a conversation that wasn't invigorated because he was a part of it. His energy for life was seldom matched, and he had an uncanny way of making you feel all would be OK, even when things were down. He had a huge heart and charisma to spare. That spirit will live on in all of his surviving family.
Willie is survived by his three sons, Terrance (Barbara) Aldridge, Tyrone (Michelle) Oates, and Ahla-Taki (Zakiya) Oates, and numerous grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Willie James Oates Sr. and Leola Jones, and his son, Timothy (Joy) Oates.
Memorial contributions should be made to the American Red Cross or the
A service will be held at 1 p.m. Friday, July 18, 2014, at the First Missionary Baptist Church located on 1103 Sterling Blvd., Florence, Alabama.
Published in Florence Times Daily on July 16, 2014