Floyd Estes Bates, RIP


Yesterday afternoon we laid to rest my Grandfather's next youngest brother, who died early Sunday morning in Nowata. Floyd Estes Bates was born on October 3, 1920, in Welch, Oklahoma. He joined the Army when he turned 18, served with the 127th Infantry in New Guinea, and left the service in 1946 as a Staff Sergeant. He was a Purple Heart recipient -- twice wounded in combat. He married Susie L. Smith in 1947 -- she passed away this October. After the Army, Floyd was an oilfield worker and a member of the Pipefitters' and Welders' Union.

Floyd was sent off with a graveside service at Ball Cemetery near Childers, east of Nowata. The service reflected his life and loves. It began with a banjo and harmonica version of "Under the Double Eagle", followed by the Texas Playboys "Faded Love", played on a portable CD player.

After a brief homily from a local minister, we heard a bluegrass version of "I'll Fly Away". The rifle squad from the local VFW chapter fired three volleys, taps was played (a live bugler, not a recording), the flag was folded and presented to Floyd's grandson, and the rifle squad -- veterans from WWII, Korea, and Vietnam -- filed past and saluted the coffin.

Then there were half a dozen Freemasons, in suits, Masonic aprons, and white gloves, with sprigs of evergreen in their handkerchief pockets, who draped Floyd's apron on the coffin and recited a brief ceremony. (Floyd had been admitted to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason.)

The service ended with another recording: "The Texas Playboys are on the air!" followed by their radio theme song.

I never spent much time around my Great Uncle Floyd. For whatever reason, the Bateses didn't gather often, even though many of them lived close to each other. We saw my Grandmother's family far more often.

There was one special day back in the fall of '98: Great Uncle Floyd, my grandfather (John Bates), my dad, my Uncle Robert and I spent a day driving the back roads of Craig County, where my ancestors arrived before the turn of the 20th Century. We visited the cemetery near Centralia where my great-great-grandfather and great-great-grandmother are buried and the cemetery west of Welch where my great-grandfather and great-grandmother are buried. It was an afternoon to hear the two brothers tell stories about growing up on the farm (the family worked different farms around Craig County), the rare trips to town, their older brothers, their parents and grandparents; about fights in old honky-tonks, picnics, and hard work. On the way back to Nowata, we passed by Ball Cemetery and Floyd had us drive through to show us the plot he'd purchased.

A year later, my grandfather (himself a baker in the Navy during the War) had passed on. I remember Floyd's tears at the time, as he realized he was the last one left -- his youngest brother Albert, born in 1922, died in Italy in 1944. Floyd might have met a similar fate in the Pacific, but God gave him an extra 60 years to be a husband, a dad, and a granddad. May he rest in peace.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on December 31, 2003 12:30 AM.

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