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Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson's
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Life Story / Obituary
“The World Turned Upside Down” with the passing of Dr. Mark Gates on September 4, 2020. Young Mark loved being outside and playing in the fields of Withrow High School behind his childhood home in Cincinnati. His family enjoyed summer vacations in Pentwater and Cedarville, Michigan. Early in life, Mark learned gardening from his beloved Oma. Later, his roses, azaleas, and rhododendrons would be featured in a neighborhood tour in Portland. His father Del, a Proctor & Gamble manager, oversaw a munitions plant in Tennessee during WWII. Even though Mark was very young, living there prompted his interest in history. While in Tennessee, Del purchased a Lionel model train set. Since that day, Mark had a love for all things railroad. Friends who visited the Gates’ house in Michigan got a tour and demonstration of the train layout.
Even food had a connection to trains. In Portland, Victoria Station and Depot Deli were popular spots to eat. A big bowl of the legendary bouillabaisse at Jake’s Famous Crawfish was a special occasion favorite. After work, Mark would sometimes swing by Stanich’s to pick up a bag of their famous burgers. He loved nothing more than chicken dinners, Clausen pickles, and cherry turnovers.
While attending the University of Cincinnati, Mark would cross the river to Kentucky to enjoy the blues and soul clubs. He discovered R & B music while listening to AM radio stations from distant cities. Mark loved a variety of music and encouraged his children’s musical talents. A room over the garage was remodeled into a “playroom” for jam sessions. When sessions went too late, he'd come down the hall in his tighty-whities to tell the kids to, “Keep it down a little.” Mark had an open-door policy for his children’s friends; they would often spend the night, a week, or sometimes a summer! Friends were invited on trips with the family and the house was alive with companionship and laughter.
Mark’s beautiful Portland garden included hand-built terraces and dozens of rose varieties. In West Michigan he turned to dahlias and zinnias, expanding flower beds to accommodate over a hundred plants which he shared with neighbors, friends, and strangers. Need more flowers? Take your Mason jar to Dr. Gates!
Mark’s knowledge of Blood Banking, Coagulation, and Hematology was respected by the physicians he worked with and advised at Providence Portland Hospital. Mark and his wife, Nancy, a medical technologist, worked together in the laboratory. He often spoke at medical technology meetings, adding slides of his flowers into his presentations. Mark loved photography and relished sharing his thoughtful and fun slideshows with everyone.
After retirement, Mark was content to be a homebody, gardening, watching movies, cataloging newspaper articles, and reading. He studied the details of history. He was always a student and loved to share his wealth of knowledge. He’d often greet you at the door with a book or DVD that might interest you. He had a love for movies, from war documentaries to Inspector Clouseau films, which his family and friends found funny since he happened to look a bit like Peter Sellers himself. He enjoyed watching M*A*S*H, Jeopardy, and sports with his kids. Monitoring developments in the Tour de France with Rebecca was a must each summer. While in Denver, Mark rooted for the Broncos. In Michigan, he switched to all things Green Bay. He shared his love of Packer football with his youngest, Sarah. They enjoyed watching many games together.
Mark not only watched sports, but actively participated. He swam butterfly and breaststroke for both the University of Cincinnati and Washington University in St. Louis. It was at the pool that he met his first wife, Ronda. Early on, all the Gates children were encouraged to explore their athletic gifts. Mark enjoyed a good bike ride. He helped train Rebecca and Cal for summer bicycle touring trips and later helped Sarah practice with her training wheels. He joined the running craze in the 70s, completing many road races including his favorite, the Cascade Runoff. Mark spent hundreds of Saturday mornings at the rink coaching Cal’s youth hockey teams, teaching the kids teamwork and fundamentals. Mark also played in “old timers” hockey leagues in Denver, Rochester, and Portland.
Family vacations were always memorable! Multiple ski adventures throughout the West will never be forgotten. Cal and his friend, Bill Benjamin, got blisters playing Pac-Man on one ski trip. Convincing Mark to go “off trail” at Brundage Mountain, getting sunburned at Sun Valley, and weeks at Breckenridge and Mt. Bachelor are just some of the winter memories shared. Often referred to as “Lake Taco,” summer trips with Rebecca and Cal to Brockway Springs at Lake Tahoe were fueled by Chile Colorados from the legendary Cantina de los Tres Hombres. Summers with Nancy and Sarah were spent in Pentwater swimming in the cool waters of Lake Michigan and lounging on the beach.
During a recent trip to Cincinnati, Mark enjoyed showing Nancy and Sarah his old Hyde Park haunts: Graeter’s Ice Cream and Skyline Chili. Never a stranger, he sent a letter to the current owners of an old friend’s home and they graciously gave Mark's family a tour, serving lemonade and cookies on the terrace. Mark enjoyed telling them about the many adventures he and his friends had there. Another highlight was a visit to Glendale Lyceum where Mark spent many summers lifeguarding. He visited with members recalling good times around the pool. The museum in the old train station was a special treat for the train buff.
Mark loved his many family pets. His beloved Sparky was with him all through his childhood. Woody the cat was his (finicky) “princess”. Kitty Casey, Chessie the Springer, Casey the English Cocker, Poe the cat, and others were cherished and spoiled. He had a genuinely kind heart for all living things.
Mark was quick to smile and laugh, sometimes to the point of tears. His children remember hearing him cackling heartily late at night while he read Jean Shepherd books in bed. Mark put his family first. It was important to him to facilitate his family’s happiness. His love and laughter will be missed.
Dr. Mark Gates, a retired Pathologist and Transfusion Medicine Specialist, passed away unexpectedly September 4 in Kalamazoo. He was born June 30, 1939, in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Delmore and Laura (Shuff) Gates, who are deceased. He is survived by his wife of 30 years, Nancy, and their daughter, Sarah, engaged to Elvis Plaza. Also surviving are his children: Rebecca Gates and Caleb Gates, both of Portland, OR; his first wife, Ronda Gates; and his brother, David Gates of Media, PA. He graduated with a B.A. in Chemistry from University of Cincinnati and an M.D. degree from Washington University. St. Louis, MO, 1965. He served two years as a Captain at Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, CO. He remained in Denver for Pathology Residency. Following a fellowship in Transfusion Medicine at Mayo Clinic, he joined Providence Portland Hospital in Oregon. He retired in 1995. Cremation has taken place. A private memorial service will be held at a later time. Please visit Mark’s personal web page at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com where you may read his Life Story, archive a favorite memory or photo, and sign his online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s or PBS Foundation. Arrangements by Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900.