Vernon Edward Cates, age 87, of Ottawa, passed away Friday, July 29, surrounded by his loving family.
Family and friends are warmly invited to a visitation at Gladfelter-Roetker Funeral Home on Thursday, August 4, from 4:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. A celebration to honor Vernon’s life will be held on Friday, August 5, at 10:30 a.m. at Crossbridge Community Church before being laid to rest at Oakwood Memorial Park with Military Honors by the Ottawa American Legion Post 33 Honor Guard.
Vernon was born June 12, 1935, in Plummerville, AR, the eldest son of Emil and Ruby (Thomas) Cates. After graduating from high school in Bragg City, AR, his family moved to Wedron, IL. Vernon enlisted in the Air Force and proudly served for five years, including memorable time in Spain. Upon his honorable discharge, he began his career at Caterpillar Tractor Company. In the summer of 1960, his sister Mae Ruth introduced him to her friend and co-worker, Sharon Parisot. Vernon and Sharon fell in love, married on New Year’s Eve 1960 at St. Joseph’s Church in Marseilles, and spent the next 61 years together. They rarely spent a night apart, and their partnership centered on family and service to others.
In addition to working every overtime shift offered, Vern’s life revolved around his children, Daniel, Barry, and Bethany. Throwing the ball to his five-year-old son in the backyard soon led to Vern coaching Little League, a calling that he savored for many years. His dedication to kids in Ottawa led to years of service to the Ottawa Youth Football League. If you knew Vern, he likely sold you a fundraising raffle ticket to ensure youth football in Ottawa could continue providing opportunities.
After retiring from Caterpillar, Vern drove kids to and from school and countless activities as a bus driver for the Ottawa Elementary School District for many years. His boundless love and commitment to children and young people eventually included his grandchildren and great-grandson. From the start of their marriage, Vernon and Sharon’s home was always open to any family member, and many benefitted from their unconditional welcome over the years.
Continuing Vern’s legacy of generosity and service are his loving wife, Sharon; children, Daniel (Susan) Cates of Bloomington, IN, Barry (Michele) Cates of Leesburg, VA, and Bethany (Pat) Henry of Ottawa; grandchildren, Jeffrey and Christopher Cates, Nicolas and Nathan Reynolds; and great-grandson, Karsen Reynolds. He will be greatly missed by his brother, Bill (Linda) Cates of Carol Stream, IL; and sisters, Mae Ruth Rygh of Spanaway, WA, and Helen Finch of Troy, MO.
The family asks that memorial contributions be made to the Ottawa National Little League or the Ottawa Youth Football League. To share a memory or sign the guestbook, please visit www.gladfelter-roetker.com or Gladfelter-Roetker Funeral Home on Facebook.