By Brandon Martin
Bulldogs are often characterized as sweet, devoted and easygoing. If this description fits anyone, it would be the former mayor of Martinsville, LD Oakes.
Oakes and his wife, Retha, recently announced they would be leaving the City of Martinsville for Ohio to be closer to their grandchildren. While they can’t wait to be with their immediate family, the two couldn’t escape “The City Without Limits” without a well-deserved farewell party from their adopted one.
Three other Martinsville mayors and numerous local representatives gathered at Rania’s Restaurant Bar & Grill on April 30 to bid the two adieu.
The first to speak was former mayor Gene Teague.
“LD and I have been together for a long time,” said Teague. “LD was elected to City Council in 1976 and he served until 1996. He was the longest serving member of Martinsville City Council when he retired. He had a tremendous impact on the community during those 20 years.”
Teague spoke about the importance of Oakes’ service in the Virginia Municipal League.
“LD is one of three Martinsville folks who became president of the VML,” he said. “That means LD’s leadership was recognized at the statewide level. He used that leadership and that experience to help others and to help our state legislators see the needs and the importance of local government.”
Oakes also was a familiar face in Martinsville sports.
“He’s an active member of the Martinsville Booster Club, the recreation association and the PTA for over 30 years.” Teague said. “Even though his kids left the schools 20-30 years ago, LD was still there as an active member in those organizations. If you go to a football game, you could see LD as part of the chain gang, moving the chains. If you go to a basketball game, you’ll see LD keeping score for the basketball team. He celebrated several state championships with Martinsville.”
Both Oakes and his wife were active members at McCabe Memorial Baptist Church.
“What you find about LD is he loves his church, he loves his church family, and he loves the Lord,” Teague said. “He’s also served Grace Network. Both he and Retha have been active members, hundreds of hours annually.”
While happy that Oakes will finally get to spend time with his grandchildren, Teague said he will miss having his friend around.
“What I would say about my friend LD is he is known for always lifting others up,” Teague said. “He is the most encouraging person that you’ll ever meet. He will give you a kind word, he will encourage you in what you are doing. He sets about himself to make others feel important, feel lifted-up, and that skill is just uncommon in this world. Somebody that really cares about people and cares about seeing that they live their best life. I’m proud to be LD’s friend, and I know if you are his friend, you are proud to be his friend as well. I want to wish LD and Retha much success and future happiness.”
Dr. G.H. Vaughan, pastor of McCabe, focused on Oakes’ dedication to service.
“Whether you are talking about him serving as a trustee or as a deacon, as a member of our admin team or our leadership team, he has taught us that leading in that direction and fulfilling the purpose of Christ in our community is what really matters,” Vaughan said.
Among his fondest memories of Oakes are those from on the golf course, where the two routinely played by “LD rules,” Vaughan said.
“LD taught me a lot about being a friend and about what it meant to be a friend,” Vaughan said. “One of the things that I learned most from him is that friendships are things that develop and happen because two people love the Lord and God intends to put them together. I didn’t need anything from him, and he didn’t need anything from me. We just cared for each other. So out of that, and a love for golf ━ and some of those LD rules, I’ll have to tell you that I probably came up with.”
While he wasn’t a graduate of Martinsville High School, Oakes is and always will be a Martinsville Bulldog. As he prepared to leave the city, he can rest assured that his legacy will resonate in the ‘dawg’ pound for years to come, according to those attending the event.
Tim Byrd, president of the Martinsville Bulldogs Boosters, was among those that Oakes impacted.
“I don’t know how many miles we have logged going across the state for the Bulldogs, but it’s been a lot of them,” Byrd said. “Replacing people like LD and Retha, you just can’t do that. It’s not possible. But what we can do, and what they would want us to do, is to follow their example. The Martinsville Bulldog Boosters will miss their energy and devotion to our sports. They’ve been such a big part of our organization for so long.”
In honor of the two, Byrd said the booster club will make a $500 donation to Grace Network.
Shani Shorter, legislative assistant to Del. Les Adams, R-Chatham, presented Oakes with a Virginia flag which was flown over the state capitol.
“The presentation of a flag, and especially the flag of Virginia, is a rare occurrence,” Shorter said. “It’s reserved for special occurrences and for those who have given so much to the community. You have embodied the perfect example of a gentleman and a servant leader.”
Oakes said he would fly the flag at his new home in Ohio.
Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Glade Hill, presented Oakes with an American flag which was flown over the Capitol in D.C.
“I’m representing Congressman Morgan Griffith from the Ninth Congressional District. Morgan is a student of Virginia and U.S. history. He is so intensely devoted to those people who have dedicated their careers and their time in the military of the United States of America to serve our country,” Poindexter said. “LD served in the Air Force. People who have served in the Air Force have a unique capability. On behalf of Congressman Griffith, myself and the citizens all over America, we thank you for your service to the United States of America.”
After the presentation of the flags, the three mayors took the floor to present Oakes with an embroidered golf shirt.
“One of the things about being mayor is once you are mayor, you are always a mayor,” said Council Member Danny Turner, who also previously held the mayoral post. “LD has been the mayor and I know he is going to Ohio, so we wanted to present him with a shirt so he can wear t in Ohio so they will know it too.”
Kathy Lawson, the city’s current mayor, talked about the impact Oakes had on her journey.
“As a young Martinsville Jaycee, I remember one night ━ it was legislative week or something ━ and the mayor was coming to talk to the Jaycees. That mayor was LD,” Lawson said. “Never in my imagination would I have thought that 30 years later, that this man that came to our Jaycee meeting would not only be my mentor, but he would be my friend. I am so thankful for your leadership, your guidance, and your comments or suggestions that have always led me in the right direction.”
“It’s been my pleasure to be with you guys and work with you in the community and church. We’ve been long-time friends and we will continue to be friends,” Oakes said. “You always promise you are going to do something; hopefully, we are going to stop by several times. When we go to Florida, we are going to stop by here. We’ll come back to see you and I’ll have all of those memories in my mind.”
Oakes added that he is thankful for the camaraderie.
“Could you imagine 83 years in this community, and all of you wonderful people that we’ve been associated with,” Oakes said. “I consider you all my family. What’s been so special is I have worked with each and every one of you, trying to move our community forward. I don’t see Martinsville. I don’t see Henry County. I see a great community. I’m very proud of this city. We love you and we thank you. God bless you.”