Oles Morrison Mourns the Loss of One of Seattle’s Legendary Attorneys, Stuart Oles
Tue Apr 10, 2018
Stuart Oles, one of Seattle’s preeminent attorneys, passed away on April 8, 2018 surrounded by his family. He was 93 years old. Stuart joined the firm of Allen, Degarmo & Leedy (established in 1893) in 1950, and became the senior partner in 1977 when the firm adopted his name. Widely considered a leader of construction law practice in the United States, he managed the development of the firm’s practice in that area until his retirement in 1992. He was also a leader in various non-profit community affairs.
For as long as he could remember, Stuart wanted to be a lawyer, placing a “S. Gregory Oles, Attorney at Law” sign on his bedroom door as a young child. During World War II, however, he volunteered for the Marine Corps’ officer training program and served until he was injured and discharged for medical reasons in 1945. Meanwhile, his mother enrolled him at the University of Washington so he could fulfill his dream of becoming a lawyer.
During law school, Stuart spent a summer working for renowned construction attorney, Gerald DeGarmo, at the firm of Allen, Hilen, Froud and DeGarmo (now Oles Morrison), a firm with which he would end up being associated for nearly 50 years. Upon graduating third in his class from University of Washington School of Law, he joined the King County Prosecutor’s office and rose to become the Chief Civil Deputy before returning to work with DeGarmo in 1950. Over the years, Stuart compiled a remarkable record of success litigating a series of high profile cases – including a landmark labor law case that he argued to the U.S. Supreme Court (Teamsters v. Lucas Flour Company), termination-related claims on the Kingdome, numerous heavy construction claims across the West and in Alaska, and a case that helped define the obligations of banks to trust beneficiaries (Allard v. Pacific National Bank).
Stuart was active in community affairs, taking pro bono leadership roles for the Episcopal Church and various civic groups. He was an avid scholar and world traveler. He wrote a professional memoir entitled On Behalf of My Clients, and he also published a book of lay sermons.
Stuart Oles will be remembered for his contributions to the firm, to the construction industry, to his community, and to the legal profession. He is survived by his wife Ilse and by three sons, one of whom (Douglas) remains a partner in the firm.
Memorial contributions may be sent in his name to Grace Episcopal Church, P. O. Box 324, Lopez Island WA 98261. A memorial service will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, April 29 at Grace Episcopal Church on Lopez Island, Washington.