Kent Oakes, stalwart of P.E.I. harness racing, remembered for passion for industry

Kent Oakes, who died as a result of a traffic accident on Friday, is being remembered as a leader in the harness racing industry.  (Belvedere Funeral Home - image credit)
Kent Oakes, who died as a result of a traffic accident on Friday, is being remembered as a leader in the harness racing industry. (Belvedere Funeral Home - image credit)

People in harness racing circles across the continent are paying tribute to a Prince Edward Island man who dedicated his life to the industry.

Kent Oakes was declared dead at Prince County Hospital in Summerside after a four-vehicle crash on Route 2 around midday Friday. He was 64.

"Kent dedicated his life to the Atlantic Canadian harness racing industry during his career as a civil servant, first with the Department of Agriculture then the Department of Finance," says a family death notice posted on the Belvedere Funeral Home website.

"Horses were his passion, as he toiled every living moment to further the industry in whatever way he could."

"A lot of us are still in shock," said Lee Drake, manager of racing and broadcast at Red Shores. He called Oakes "a good friend" and noted that the Charlottetown racetrack is part of the Oakes legacy.

"In 2003, when Hurricane Juan hit the track here at Charlottetown, Kent played an integral part of working with governments and Atlantic Lottery, getting guidance along the way, and working to achieve what has become a crown jewel of of racing here in Charlottetown."

2008 Gold Cup and Saucer race at the Charlottetown Driving Park.
2008 Gold Cup and Saucer race at the Charlottetown Driving Park.

An image from the 2008 Gold Cup and Saucer race at the Charlottetown Driving Park, five years after Hurricane Juan badly damaged the facility. Oakes was one of the leaders behind its renewal as Red Shores. (CBC)

That site was among the tracks that organized tributes over the weekend.

"Red Shores is deeply saddened by the loss of our colleague and dear friend," the Charlottetown track said in a Facebook post on Saturday, before playing a montage of images at the start of the evening's racing. "Kent was a well respected leader."

Truro Raceway also held a moment of silence, according to Scott Waddell of the Maritime News & Behind the Gate podcast.

"I had the pleasure of dealing with Kent as he joined lobbying efforts to have [the] New Brunswick government come on board to support the industry here," Waddell wrote in a post on social media.

"He did so much behind the scenes that we as an industry may have never known, but I can say first-hand, always was he willing to help in any way."

Held many positions

The obituary for Oakes said he "served on or aided virtually every board and organization in the harness racing industry." This included as chair of Standardbred Canada, interim director of the Maritime Provinces Harness Racing Commission and the racing manager at Red Shores Charlottetown and Summerside.

The family's obituary says visitation will be Wednesday from 4 to 7 p.m. at Belvedere Funeral Home, where the funeral service will also be held on Thursday at 11 a.m., with a livestream offered from the funeral home.