Edmund Gates, Jr. departed this life on October 3, 2015, at his home in the Big Bend community west of Ralston, Oklahoma, surrounded by his loved ones, having reached the age of 96 years.
He was born to Edmund, Sr. and Mamie Tripp Gates on June 15, 1919, on the family farm in the Big Bend on the Arkansas River. He graduated from the eighth grade at Woodland School (located in the Big Bend) and completed high school at Burbank High School in 1938. Less than two weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Edmund enlisted in the army air corps. Beginning in November of 1942, Edmund flew 25 combat missions into occupied Europe with the 8th Air Force, serving as an upper turret gunner and flight engineer on a B17 flying Fortress bomber. The first half of these missions was flown without fighter escort relying only on high altitude and close formation for protection. He was awarded three Oak Leaf Clusters and the Distinguished Flying Cross, achieving the rank of technical sergeant.
He married Bernyce Smith on March 4, 1948, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. They established a home in the Big Bend community where they resided at his death. They had two daughters, Bernadean and Angela. Edmund was pleased when his daughter, Angie, gave him a "son" by marrying Ben Bradley. He would often quip, "I enjoy being with my family" and he really meant it.
Edmund made a living as a skilled carpenter and raised cattle. He accepted Jesus as his Savior on December 11, 1945 and committed himself to living out his faith. He served as a deacon in the Masham Baptist Church and the Ralston Baptist Church. He and his wife served as youth leaders in the Masham church, forging many relationships that continue to this day. In the Ralston church, Edmund taught a boys' Sunday School class, led the congregational singing, and served on the building and grounds committee during many phases of construction. He loved the opportunity to serve be it great or small. Edmund's favorite pastime was people. He loved visiting and sharing stories. He had an enthusiastic wave, an infectious smile, and a signature greeting, "It's sure good to see you." He was energized by his interactions with others. Edmund loved competitive sports, especially football and was an avid supporter of the Woodland Cougars.
He is survived by his wife, Bernyce of the home, two daughters, Bernadean Gates of the home and Angie Bradley and husband Ben of Jenks; one brother, Jim and his wife, Lou of Fairfax; three sisters, Martha Johnston and Mamie Tice and husband, Jack of Oklahoma City, and Julia Newland of Garland, Texas. He leaves behind numerous nieces and nephews, cousins, and a host of friends.
The funeral will be held Thursday, October 8 at 2 p.m. at the Ralston Baptist Church with burial to follow in Pixley Cemetery in the Big Bend community. Arrangements are under the direction of the Hunsaker-Wooten Funeral Home in Fairfax.
Casket bearers are Tim Gates, Daniel Edmund Newland, Carl Goad, Greg Goad, Rick Rice and Ron Gibson. Honorary casket bearers are Hubert Hutchens, Harvey Myers, Bob Hightower, Lee Bledsoe and Ron Bledsoe.
Memorial contributions may be made to Ralston Baptist Church at P.O. Box 240, Ralston, Oklahoma 74650 or ONHL Hospice, 701 N. Bristow P.O. 1217, Drumright, Oklahoma 74030.