Don and Georgia “Lynn” Bates left a legacy in Lumberton.
Former Lumberton Raider football coach Don Bates and his wife, Georgia "Lynn" Bates left a lasting mark on many of their students during their time in Lumberton. The couple recently passed on after both fought a brave battle with cancer.
Don grew up in Tenaha and became an outstanding high school athlete.
He received a football scholarship from Sam Houston State University and majored in physical education while playing tight end on the college football team.
Don received his undergraduate degree and followed it with a Masters in Kinesiology. He served as a coach in several districts around the state of Texas including a stint in Lumberton as head football coach.
Don played an integral part in the formation of the Lumberton Raider football team from the fall of 1967 until the couple relocated in 1970. Former students recall his dedication to both his family and his career, as well as his students. Don himself was responsible for the choosing of the Raider colors and Raider logo.
Lynn Bates, Don's beloved wife, grew up Cherokee, OK and had a love of dance like no other. She was in the first graduating class of Westbury High School in 1962 and attended Sam Houston State University, where she met her future husband while majoring in education.
Lynn was a twirler in her college band and continued to dance throughout her college and adult years. She received her undergraduate degree and followed with a Masters in Kinesiology.
The college sweethearts married on August 20, 1966 and they soon came to Lumberton where Don was hired as a coach and Lynn created Lumberton's first drill team.
During her time as Raiderette Drill Team Director, Lynn coached and mentored several young women who credit their love of dance to her. Former Lumberton resident, Cindy Edgar-Caldwell, was a member of the founding Raiderettes and formed a strong bond with her new drill team director.
"I cannot tell you how special Lynn was to me," Caldwell said. "She choreographed a dance and taught it to me so that I could perform in the 'Miss Texas Women's University Pageant of 1970'. Although I did not win, I did place in the top ten because of Mrs. Lynn Bates. She was a beautiful and graceful lady."
Other students share many stories of how Lynn helped them grow into the beautiful young women she knew they could be.
"She took me under her wing when I first moved to Lumberton," former Raiderette Mary Ann Hale said in an email. "I tried out for the Raiderettes when I was in the eighth grade and it transformed my life. She was our creator and director. She took a shy, skinny girl and helped me blossom into a confident young lady, for the first time in my life. She taught me a great love of dance and helped me develop a love of hard work, perfection and teamwork. I don't think she had any idea of the way she really effected our lives."
Together, Don and Lynn Bates transformed the lives of many of Lumberton's students and several credit the couple for their career choices in education.
"The main thing that I keep hearing from so many is how much of an influence that they both had on their students," Max Rodgers, brother of Lynn Bates, said. "They will always remembered as educators and that is exactly how they would want it to be."
Rodgers has many fond memories with the couple, who stayed by each other's side until the very end. Many have stated theirs is a true and inspiring love story.
Both fought a brave battle and on Oct. 8, while in their home in Wharton, they both passed. Don first, with Lynn following behind by a mere two hours.
"Just like in life, she took care of him. She had to make sure her work was done before she could rest," Rodgers said. "We whispered to her about Don's passing and within two hours she passes. She had told us repeatedly that she wanted to go together with Don, she hung on until she knew he was at peace and then she choreographed the perfect ending to an unbelievable and beautiful love story."
A memorial service for Don and Lynn Bates will be held on Saturday, Oct. 26 at 1:30 p.m., in the Wharton High School Auditorium.