Joseph P. Oates, decorated World War II veteran and state tax official, dies

Joseph Patrick Oates, a former director of the state Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division who was also a decorated World War II veteran, died of stroke complications March 11 at Oak Crest Village Retirement Community.

He was 98 and lived in Carney.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Bouldin Street in Canton, he was the son of Irish immigrants Patrick Oates and his wife Margaret, a gardener and cook at Doughoregan Manor.

He attended St. Brigid School, where he met his future wife, Doris Miller.

In 1937 he graduated from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute.

While a high school freshman he began a lifelong affection for Notre Dame University football — he appeared in a photograph in The Baltimore Sun awaiting a chance to get a ticket to the Navy-Notre Dame game that was played Nov. 4, 1933, at the old Baltimore Stadium on 33rd Street.

“He called himself ‘subway Irish.’ He couldn’t afford to go to [Notre Dame], but he root for the team,” said his daughter, Nancy Oates Stanley of West Friendship.

He also enjoyed soccer and was goalie for an adult team, the Baltimore Colonials, that won the East Baltimore championship in 1939.

He worked for Stillman Beer in the fermentation room and later at the old Globe Brewing Co. He joined the Army in 1941 and was assigned to a medical unit. He drove an ambulance.

For decades, Mr. Oates never revealed to his family that he had landed at Normandy during the Allied Invasion, June 6, 1944. Then, on the 50th anniversary of D-Day, he was with family in Ocean City when the question arose. Mr. Oates’ son-in-law, Denny Moran, asked him where he had been on D-Day.

His reply was: “I was bobbing up and down in the English Channel.”

He landed at 7 p.m. that day. Mr. Oates commanded an ambulance unit and supervised the evacuation of the wounded to a treatment station off the Normandy beaches.

His daughter said Mr. Oates later told her his mission had been to set up an Army field hospital. Instead, he loaned most of the men in his unit to help with graves registration, she said.

He was later awarded the Bronze Star and went on to serve in the campaigns of Northern France, the Rhineland and Central Europe. He left military service as a captain.

After the war, he obtained a bachelor’s degree at Loyola University Maryland. In 1959 he received a degree from the University of Maryland School of Law, where he was secretary to the dean and later her personal attorney.

He joined the State of Maryland’s Office of the Comptroller and headed its Abandoned Property Division from 1966 to 1971. He retired in 1980 as director of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division.

He maintained an elder law practice in Canton and worked alongside his wife, who was his legal secretary. His two daughters also later worked as his secretaries. He was often the personal representation of Canton-based clients who had few survivors.

“When he could no longer drive at night, a local judge would pick him up at his home and drive to the University of Maryland campus for continuing education classes,” his daughter said.

“He closed his last estate at the age of 92,” she said.

After their children grew up and left home, Mr. Oates and his wife treated themselves on their 50th wedding anniversary to an oceanfront condominium in Ocean City.

He enjoyed ocean swimming and his time sitting on the beach with family and friends, as well as crab feasts where he might have a Michelob.

Mr. Oates remained a Notre Dame fan and attended games in South Bend, Ind., when one of his grandsons attended the school.

He was the patriarch at family parties and gatherings. He attended baptisms, first communions, confirmations, graduations from preschool through graduate school, weddings, annual St. Patrick’s Day parties and Oates family reunions.

His wife of 57 years died in 1999.

On June 6, 2014, Mr. Oates participated in a ceremony on the field at Camden Yards honoring those who served on D-Day. Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter congratulated and thanked Mr. Oates for his service and presented him with a baseball signed by the team.

A Mass was held Saturday at St. Isaac Jogues Church in Parkville, where Mr. Oates had been a member and an usher.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include three sons, Patrick Oates of Glen Burnie, Sean Oates of Selbyville, Del., and Terrence Oates of Bel Air; two other daughters, Maureen Moran of Bel Air and Sheila Gordon of Sykesville; 14 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Another son, Kevin Oates, died in 1959.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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