John C. Oakley, MD - In Remembrance

Mon, 04/24/2006
John Oakley MD

John C. Oakley MD, neurosurgeon, researcher, husband, father, and friend died April 17th, 2006. He was kind, generous, and compassionate man; not only scholarly but faithful as well. He was always in pursuit of his passions and lived his life the way most people dream.

Born January 11, 1946 he was the second of six children growing up in Seattle, WA. He was an avid scholar all of his life, beginning his college career at the University of Washington in 1964. A year later he transferred to Pacific Lutheran University to be with his life long love and future wife, Shirley. In 1968 John graduated Magna Cum Laude with a double major in biology and chemistry paving the way for his life's work in medicine. He graduated from the University of Washington Medical School in 1972 and his work with Dr. Arthur Ward lead him to pursue a residency in neurosurgery at the University of Washington. He spent two years at the National Institutes of Health before becoming a professor at the University of Arizona. There, John developed an interest in the treatment of pain that he continued throughout his career. In 1999, after 18 years of private practice in Seattle, WA, he moved to Billings, MT and became a partner in Yellowstone Neurosurgical Associates and the director of the Rocky Mountain Pain Rehabilitation Center.

John approached every aspect of his life with the same fervor as his career. He was as interested in climbing mountains as he was in appreciating a fine wine or listening to an opera. His hiking extended throughout the world, including a climb to the top of Mt. Rainier. He skied with friends all throughout Europe and spent his recent family vacations at Big Sky skiing with his children and grandchildren. When he discovered golf in his later years he was fortunate enough to play with friends all over the world. John never waited to do the things that he loved. He appreciated every moment as it presented itself.

Not only a scholar and an athlete, John was an artist and a musician as well. In high school he taught himself to play guitar and sang folk music in a trio called The Kinsmen. He and his wife continued singing together in church choirs and home; they also shared a spirited love of the opera. In addition, John loved to sketch portraits and in his earlier years became fascinated with woodworking. With his limited amounts of spare time he was able to build an entire bedroom set for his son, Peter. He also convinced his daughter that the garage was "Santa's Workshop" while he built her a dollhouse for Christmas.

John's obsession for flying started as a young boy when he spent a summer living with his Uncle Mel who was a bush pilot in Alaska. Some of his fondest memories and most exciting stories came from this one summer. As an adult he reached his goal of flight and was able to travel around the country with his family. One of his flights included a trip from Washington to Georgia. He loved to fly his airplane.

Of all things important to John teaching was what he thrived on. His compassion helped him become a teacher that all people could relate to and understand. Because of this skill he was a sought after lecturer in the medical community. He published countless articles and chapters in text books relating to his field. He also loved to read and discuss history, and was privileged to share his faith with others through bible studies and the occasional sermon.

John was a man whose faith could never be questioned. If you were lucky enough to share it with him you could see that he had the purest and most real kind of Christian faith; the kind that makes other people believe without the work of miracles or evangelism. He shared his faith every day by the way that he lived his life. He and Shirley raised their children with this same faith and devoted all of their love to them. He was an active member of American Lutheran Church where he had a church family he was proud to share.

John is survived by his loving wife, Shirley and their children John, Peter, and Rebekah; daughter-in-law Kathy Lachata-Oakley and son-in-law Jeff Robinson; grandchildren Christian and Alan Oakley; mother and father Don and Beulah Oakley; brothers Bob and Steve Oakley; sisters Nancy Manning, Sally Sheehan, and Donna Oakley; mother and father-in-law, Bill and Ann Craft; brothers and sisters-in-law John and Linda Mclaughlin, and Rick and Jacquie Craft and all of their children.

The memorial services will be held at 11:00 am, Friday, April 21st at American Lutheran Church in Billings Montana and Saturday, May 6th at University Lutheran Church in Seattle Washington.