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Eight Bells for Randy Oates

Randy Oates

Oct 17, 1943 - Apr 10th, 2024

Biography: Randy Oates was born in Little Rock, Arkansas to Gordon Page Oates and WillEtta “Willie” Long Oates on October 17, 1943. He was an admired sailor, impressive athlete, revered marketing executive, and dearly loved friend and family member.

During the Korean War, his father, Dr. Oates, went into active duty with the Navy and moved Randy and Willie to La Jolla, California. This was an eye-opening cultural experience compared to Arkansas in the 1950’s and he embraced pizza and eating Chinese food with chopsticks. They returned to Little Rock in 1954 for the birth of his sister Debbie. When the schools in Little Rock were closed by Governor Faubus in 1958, Randy attended Chamberlain-Hunt Academy, a boarding school in Port Gibson, Mississippi. Randy and his classmates had the opportunity to be extras as infantry in the movie, The Horse Soldiers, starring John Wayne. This remained one of Randy’s favorite childhood memories and he raved about how nice John Wayne was.

A 1962 graduate of Hall High School, he pursued a college degree after working one summer at his grandfather’s (Carl Oates) mattress factory. He became a stellar student at the University of Arkansas Fayetteville, where he majored in marketing and made the Dean’s List. Randy was a member of Phi Delta Theta, became a lifelong Razorback fan and met his first wife, Joanne “Jody” Ahern, at the U of A, graduating in 1965.

Soon after, he began his career at Foley’s in Houston, and his son, Gregory “Greg” Lee Oates was born there. But Randy missed Arkansas and returned to Little Rock, where his second son, Matthew Gordon Oates was born. Recognized as a creative force with innovative ideas for banking services, Randy successfully progressed in marketing management and public relations at all the major banks in Little Rock, including First National, Worthen, Union and Bank of the Ozarks (Bk OZK) where he retired in 2004 as Senior VP for Marketing. During the 1980’s Randy partnered with Joe Dempsey to establish Dempsey Oates Advertising, and in 1985, they merged with Carroll and Associates to become Carroll Dempsey Oates.

Sailing was Randy’s passion and, like everything in his life, he loved competing. He raced two-man sailboats (Flying Juniors and then Y-flyers) for over 20 years, collecting multiple regatta trophies nationally and often racing with his son, Greg. Randy served as commodore of the Grande Maumelle Sailing Club. His finest sailing accomplishment was serving as one of six crew members with skipper, Max Mehlburger, on his Swan 38, Pirate, in the Marion (Mass.) to Bermuda Yacht Race in 1985. They successfully defeated more than 120 other sailboats from five countries in the 650-mile race.

With his second wife Jo Blankenship, they moved to Seattle for several years. Randy moved to Shreveport, LA, after he and Jo separated, returning to bank marketing with his friend, Mickey Freeman. He then returned to Little Rock to create a marketing department for Bank of the Ozarks.

In his fifties, Randy became an avid runner and cyclist, and started racing in triathlons. Once retired, he focused on his passion for running, biking and triathlons—becoming a contender in his age group. The year he turned 60 he was an Honorable Mention on USA Triathlon’s All-American team. Six months after retiring, Randy met Hermine “Sam” Wellner, and they married in 2006. Randy spent his summers competing at triathlons.

August 5, 2007, Randy finished his final race, the River Cities Triathlon in Shreveport, LA, with back pain. Following a poorly managed epidural injection, he was left with no feeling in his legs. Randy faced paraplegia with the determination of an athlete and pushed past all expectations to walk with two canes, ride a recumbent bicycle, create a new life boating and “living easy” in Punta Gorda, FL, and enjoying cruises around the world. He authored a book in 2014 about his recovery, The Healing Begins Today: A Memoir of Paralysis, Recovery and Creating a New Life. The last sentence in his book reflects the love and influence of his mother, Willie Oates, and his beloved grandfather, Harry Long, “His mother and grandfather never gave up on anything and neither did he.” 

Randy died in Port Charlotte, FL on April 10, 2024, following extended illness and is survived by his wife, Hermine “Sam” Oates, his sons, Greg (Amy) Oates and Matthew (Michelle) Oates, sister, Deborah Oates Erwin (David Weeks), niece, Somerset Sea (Bree), and great-niece, Savannah Sea, nephew, Dallas Erwin and many cousins. Memorials may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association ( or Second Presbyterian Church, Little Rock. A celebration of Randy’s life will be organized by his family at a later time. Please sign the online condolence book at

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