In Feb. 3 Issue
Friends, family and Russell County elected officials gathered at the Teddy Harris Grocery in Jabez last Saturday evening, January 15th, as a surprise for N.E. Oakes' 70th Birthday. The event, organized by Mr. and Mrs. Oakes' only child, Tim Oakes of Indianapolis, and Teddy Harris, attracted over 100 people. "I counted over 90 in the room at one point, and 30-40 had already come and went by the time I counted" said Mr. Harris, a former Magistrate. Russell County elected officials attending included Judge Executive Gary Robertson, County Attorney Kevin Shearer, Circuit Clerk Tony Kerr, Commonwealth Attorney Matthew Leveridge, Magistrate Ronald Johnson, outgoing Judge Executive Mickey Garner, and former County Attorney H.K. Cooper.
Mr. Oakes was born in Jabez in 1941. He spent most of his adult life in Indianapolis, first as a carpenter and framer of new home builds, and then as a self taught lawn mower repairman and "horse trader". His wife, Joyce Oakes, also originally from Jabez, worked at RCA, and then BMG, Music for 30 years in Indianapolis. When both became disabled due to work-related injuries, they returned to their hometown in 2000. Since that time, Mr. Oakes has become a staple in the Jabez community.
"If I ever need anything, I always know I can count on N.E." Mrs. Donald Bates said - a thought echoed throughout the crowd attending. "He either knows or is related to everybody, and he is good about checking on people and their properties" she added. Another theme throughout the evening was the Oakes sense of humor, which added to the joy everyone had at the surprise. "You could tell he was genuinely surprised," said his son Tim Oakes. "He hadn't shaved, had been fiddling with chainsaws all afternoon, and so he smelled of gasoline. Plus, the fact that he got a little teary-eyed when he saw everyone - well, that just made it perfect."
Mr. Oakes was named a Kentucky Colonel by Governor Beshear and outgoing Secretary of State Trey Grayson. That award was presented by Judge Executive Gary Robertson. "N.E. has given all of us elected officials good advice about the needs of Jabez and Russell County, and we rely on him" Judge Robertson added, another theme echoed by the other elected officials gathered there.
A hearty meal was provided for those in attendance by Theresa Harris and the staff at Harris Grocery. Mr. Oakes' nephew, Gary Miller of Brownstown Indiana, provided entertainment with an assortment of gospel and country songs on acoustic guitar. Mr. Miller was joined by various members of the crowd throughout the evening. Four of Mr. Oakes' five living siblings also attended, including his infamous brother Clyde Oakes, as well as numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins. "As is the case with most Oakes gatherings, lots of funny and unflattering stories were told," added Tim, "and some of them might have even been true!”