I first met Steve around 1976 while attending college at USL (now UL). I had some friends that were his fraternity brothers, and we have been close friends for over forty years.
To know Steve Oats was to love Steve Oats, and the loss of Steve has placed a deep hole in the hearts of everyone who knew him. Everyone who ever met him liked him. His charm, smile, legal prowess, and wit made strangers become friends and many become clients in very short order.
During the twelve-year period while Governor Blanco and then Governor Jindal were in office, I worked for Scott Angelle in his role as Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources. Scott Angelle and I had the opportunity to work with Steve on many legal and legislative issues for DNR, and other state agencies.
Steve possessed the uncanny ability to zero in immediately on the difficult issue at hand and then provide sage legal advice, as well as expert political advice. He was a great asset to the Blanco and Jindal administrations. He was particularly adept at bringing a group of people together who didn’t get along and had opposing views. He was able to find the much-needed common ground and broker compromise to the benefit of all parties.
In January 2016, Joel Robideaux was sworn in as Lafayette Mayor-President. The Robideaux administration worked very closely with Steve on a myriad of issues. The City-Parish Council held Steve in very high regard. They knew he was a straight-shooting guy which translated to a strong trust factor between the legislative and administrative branches.
For the last several years my family, along with many others, was treated to Steve and his wife Sylvia’s fantastic Dimension Ranch. While there, all of their guests enjoyed fantastic hunting and cooking hospitality.
Over the years, Steve and I spent hundreds of hours together duck hunting. As any avid duck hunter knows, when you spend that much time together in a duck blind, with no outside distractions, you forge a very strong bond which not many non-hunters ever get to experience.
We would talk for hours each day in the blind about our families, our faith, politics, the weather, the economy, local and national issues, decoy set up (he was very particular about decoy set up), and hundreds of other things.
As all of Steve’s friends knew quite well, he was a man of rules. He had a rule for everything 😊. He was a bit particular about how he wanted things done. Every camp visitor got a briefing on the ranch, safety, and hunting rules.
Steve would ask me about my daughter, Maxie, on every single hunt. While he and Sylvia never had any sons or daughters, they were both excellent parents. The only thing was, their children were the furry and four-legged kind---Labradors named Lexie and Shelby.
His dogs were the best trained hunting dogs I have ever been around. They listened much better than many children do and they were both so happy to follow his commands. It was funny because no one could ever tell who was the happiest after a difficult retrieve, Steve, or his fantastic “children.” Whether in a duck blind, at the ranch, or in their house, the dogs were truly his kids and he was so very proud of them---as he should have been. They are both “Rock Star” Labrador retrievers.
Another very special bond for our families was UL baseball. The Oats family and my family have a box next to each other on the first base line at Tigue Moore Field at Russo Park.
Over the many years, we watched hundreds of games together while celebrating our love of the Ragin' Cajuns with many other friends.
Steve and I were original members of the baseball Cajun Cooking Club and Steve’s philanthropic donations helped sustain the cooking club over the years.
UL baseball will never be the same without Steve’s smiling face yelling: “Hey pitcher-pitcher” to distract the opposing team’s pitchers. His banter distracted many of them, which often benefited our Ragin' Cajuns.
I recently came across this anonymous quote, which immediately made me smile and think of our love for Steve. “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.”
We all know that life is a gift from God. Our children, family, friends, neighbors, and strangers are all gifts to be savored. Although some days may be full of hardship and sadness, each breath, heartbeat, and thought illustrates the beautiful gift of life.
Please join me on behalf of Steve’s many family, friends, and beloved staff to keep the positive memories of Steve alive in your heart, and thank God for allowing Steve to be a part of each of our lives.