ADRIAN - Emmett C. Oakes, a self-taught tool and die maker and musician who operated a Christian bookstore and volunteered extensively, died Friday in Whispering Pines here.
He was 78 and died of a stroke, his daughter, Norma Baldwin, said. He had been in poor health for five months.
Mr. Oakes taught himself to play guitar as a teenager when he was hospitalized for about three years to correct a birth defect.
He acquired his first radio during his stay in a Johnson City, Tenn., hospital. During that time his family - who lived in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina - was only able to visit about once a month. His father, a coal miner, his mother, and four sisters lived a very spartan life, his daughter said.
In 1943, he moved to Adrian to work in a defense plant. Despite having only a ninth-grade education he went on to become a tool and die maker at American Chain & Cable. He retired from the plant after 31 years when he was 57.
In retirement he helped his wife, Betty, operate The Christian Bookshelf on Church Street in Adrian. They owned the store for 14 years until selling it in the mid 1980s.
Mr. Oakes and the former Betty Schantz were married for 56 years when she died in 2000. Together they had organized volunteers from their church, Bethany Assembly of God in Adrian, to deliver Meals on Wheels in Lenawee County. They visited nursing homes at least once a week in the 1990s where Mr. Oakes played music and delivered mini sermons.
He gave sermons in Adrian-area Pentecostal churches several times a year in the 1980s and 1990s and was a substitute disc jockey on a Sunday night Gospel program on WABJ-AM in Adrian in the 1980s. For 25 years, he was on a team of teachers that led a Sunday school class for 3-year-olds. He stopped only last year.
In about 1950 he had become a born-again Christian and changed his life radically, his daughter said. He quit playing music in honky-tonks and devoted his music to his Lord.
Surviving are his daughters, Norma Baldwin and Darlene Copp; sisters, Lucille Crawford and Irma Jo Mather; five grandsons, and a great-granddaughter.
Visitation will be from 2-4 and 6-8 p.m. today in Braun Everiss Wagley Funeral Home, Adrian, where the funeral will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow. The family requests tributes to three Adrian groups: Christian Mission, Inc., counseling center; Bethany Assembly of God music program, and the Church of God music program.
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