Gene Oakes had served as our president for just over a year when he was taken from us way to soon. Gene loved lighthouses and was a fervent believer in the lighthouse specialty tag as a means of producing the income necessary for the restoration and maintenance of our lighthouses. In Gene's honor this project has been named "The Gene Oakes Memorial License Plate Project." Following are memorials below to Gene along with a link to the Gene Oakes Tree Planting Memorial.
On Friday, January 20, 2006, we who love
lighthouses and especially lighthouses in Florida lost a dear friend. Gene Oakes, President of the Florida Lighthouse Association, died, having been diagnosed with cancer just a couple of weeks before.
Gene had a passion for everything in which he was involved. Among other things, he was a member and leader of Murray Hill Baptist Church, Jacksonville, President of the Mayport Lighthouse preservation group and a vocal activist in trying to have it saved and eventually move it to an accessible location, a dedicated husband and father and the untiring leader of this organization. He took his position as President seriously, spending many hours on the computer and on the road, always looking for ways to expose the association to influential people that might help advance the dreams and goals of our organization.
Under his brief watch of only a year-and-a-quarter, our organization has experienced unprecedented growth. Membership ranks have swelled with both new members and many past members whose memberships had lapsed rejoining with enthusiasm. We have all seen the quality of quarterly meetings rise exponentially. Attendance at meetings has also grown with the attendance at each meeting being larger than the previous one. We have seen new bridges built in cooperative efforts between lighthouse groups and also the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. This alone may be the most important accomplishment of his tenure. Money to fund the license plate project is coming in regularly. Our organization has benefited from Gene’s gift for administration and enthusiastic leadership style. These qualities will be missed, as well his smiling face.
Gene leaves us a healthier organization. Gene leaves us a stronger organization. Gene leaves us a growing organization. Our challenge is to take the Florida Lighthouse Association beyond even Gene’s wildest dreams – and he had some wild ones. We must not – we WILL not let Gene down.
As many of you know, we lost our past president, Gene Oakes, to cancer on January 20, 2006. He was no different than many of you. The first meeting we attended of the Florida Lighthouse Association was at Amelia Island in 1998. He was dragged to it by his wife because I wanted to go and it was local. He wasn't the least bit interested in lighthouses! Unbeknownst to many, that was the meeting where he first met Dennis and Gayle Stemac.
Over the next few years, we met more members at each meeting we attended like Diana Locke Smith, Barbara and Ray Hammel, Tom Taylor, Kathy Fleming, Hib and Martha Casselberry, Wayne and Judy Hawes, Dianne and Gordon Levi and the list goes on and on. As we visited the lighthouses around the state Gene began to take interest in each lighthouse's story and/or it's plight. He enjoyed getting to know the "lighthouse enthusiasts" at each of the local lighthouses. Preservation began to become more and more important to him. He no longer had to be dragged to the meetings by his wife; he actually enjoyed and looked forward to them and the friends he would see that shared his interests and concerns for the lighthouses.
It' hard to envision that Gene was FLA president for only fifteen months. He had such a vision for the association on the local and state level. After the October 2004 meeting at Ponce Inlet, he met with his board and commissioners to present them with a list of seventy items that were important to him. He spent no less than 15-20 hours a week on lighthouse related tasks. Whether he was on his computer emailing back and forth or talking on the phone, he always had something in the works. He served with passion and enthusiasm for the lighthouse community...and he had a great time!
Thank you for working with him and sharing his passion, for stepping up to the $1000 challange for the Florida License Plate campaign, for working endless hours planning the quarterly meetings, for working with him to find fund raising activities, for working to increase the membership and contact those that had not renewed in the last three years, for working with him to be recognized at the state level, for being an association that can have a great time even when things don't turn out as planned and for supporting him in new directions he was trying to move us. Even though he will be missed by many, there are those in the association that will pick up the torch and carry us forward. His dreams for the future and passion will live on!