Harrell D. Bates, 74, owner of Bates Furniture, passed away Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013.
Bates “worked on Front Street his entire life” in Conway, said his daughter, Cindy Bates. He started at the age of 15 at Elmer’s Home and Auto Supply through the Distributive Education program offered at Conway High School.
He graduated CHS in 1957 and worked for not only Elmer’s, but also Conway Corp. He made the most of his life here in Conway starting Bates Furniture along with his wife of 53 years, Vivian Luyet Bates.
Bates and his wife had seven children and nine grandchildren. “His family meant everything to him. He was very proud of them and they were very proud of him,” Cindy said.
He had a “love of his grandchildren and watching them play basketball,” three of them playing at St. Joseph School. “You could always find him on his top row seat,” said Jacqueline Kordsmeier, executive director for St. Joseph Endowment.
“A family man, always with them and enjoying what they were doing,” Kordsmeier said of his involvement with his family.
He also loved to go on bus trips to the casinos with the St. Joesph Parish, according to Kordsmeier.
Carol Heffington of Conway was a longtime friend of Bates and recalled all of the trips that she and her husband had gone on with him on group tours with Centennial Bank and First Security Bank. The group consists of 16 people, and they have gone on cruises to Alaska and Canada. She said the most unusual trip was to Moosonee, Canada.
Heffington said they called themselves the “Back of the Bus Gang,” and Bates was the “Gang Leader” of all their trips. Including their trips to Toad Suck Buck’s restaurant.
His questions were “What time are we eating?,” “Where’s our next meal?,” and “When are we stopping?,” according to Heffington.
She said she had known Bates since 1950 when they were in high school, where he was three grades ahead of her.
“He was real good people and real good friends. We did everything together,” she said. “He was well loved, well respected and going to be missed,” she added.
Heffington said his death was unexpected and a shock. They were already making plans for a mystery trip in two weeks.
He was a 25-year member of the Toad Suck Car Club, according to Bill Helton, owner of Helton’s Wrecker and Repair Service, and the one who got Helton into the car club.
Helton and Bates went to school together at CHS where Bates was a grade ahead of him.
Bates had several cars he would include in car shows, not only in Conway, but all over the state, that included a Mercury, an Oldsmobile and a Camaro.
Helton said they were friends who would visit each other at their businesses. “He was good and dear friend,” he said. “He did a lot for the community,” he added.
In part of his involvement, Bates did a lot with the car club in helping to raise money for the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton scholarship fund that is given each year to a student interested in auto collision and repair. Bates also contributed to The Museum of Automobiles at Petit Jean Mountain at Morrilton, according to Helton.
Funeral service for Bates will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16, at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Conway, with Deacon Jerry Joe Harrison officiating.
Visitation will be at the Church from 6-8 p.m. today with a Rosary at 6 p.m.
Burial will be at Crestlawn Memorial Park.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to be made to the following organizations: St. Joseph School Endowment, St. Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith, Toad Suck Car Club Scholarship Fund, or MOTAA Antique Car Museum.