Harold and Onie Bates celebrate 70th wedding anniversary

By Marj Oleske

Dateline, Martin, S.D., 1943: Miss Ione Palmer, of Martin, South Dakota, traveled to El Paso, Texas, to be wed to Mr. Harold Bates, of Merriman, Neb., prior to his deployment with the United States Army. The wedding announcement, which was similar to so many of the World War II era, was the beginning of a lifetime of love spanning 70 years.

On Sunday, March 10, 2013, Harold and Onie Bates, of Martin, will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary in the quiet of their home. While visiting with the couple, Harold, in his soft spoken voice, held Onie’s hand as he recalled the memories of their life together. Onie, who now has Alzheimer’s disease, listened intently to his stories.

The Bates’ spent their working years in Martin in the grocery business. “I sold an old used pickup and about 13 head of cattle to buy the inventory for our first store. I had a lot of help from people who wanted us to succeed,” Harold related. Bates Supermarket went through many changes before the Bates’ retirement. In 1961 their new store was built on Main Street across from the Old Legion Building, which is now the former Lynn’s Grocery Store. For over 40 years the family business served the community of Martin.

Harold recalled his first job as a young lad, working in the hay field just north of Merriman, for Chris Christensen. “If I remember right, I think my daily wage was about $3.50. Times have sure changed.”

Bragging on behalf of Onie, Harold recalled the days during World War II when Onie worked at Martin’s Ration Office. Her  responsibility was to oversee the rationing of certain items. A smile crossed her face as her daughter, Janet, asked if she kept the silk hose for herself. Following the war Onie also was on duty “spotting planes.” Due to the war, everyone was on edge concerning air activity. She spent time at her post atop a school building noting airplane activity and information.

During their active years, Harold and Onie were involved in “every organization we could be!” explained Harold. A few highlights of his community involvement include being a volunteer fireman, a member of the Mason’s Lodge, a member of the Board of Directors of Markota Acres, Chairman of the Board at Affiliated Foods, of Norfolk, Neb., and being a member of the American Legion. 

Onie was active in Eastern Star, Card Club and  Xi Alpha Tau, a local education sorority. The couple was active in St. Katharine’s Episcopal Church, where Harold was a lay reader, and Onie was a “Sunday School teacher to everybody.”

The Bates family includes three daughters, Janet, Nancee and Patti, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Janet Bates, who has retired from being a school social worker for the Department of Education in Hawaii, now lives in Martin to assist in the care of her parents. Nancee Bates lives in Lincoln, Neb., with her husband, Geo LeGeros, and works as a massage therapist. Their children include a son and daughter. Their son, Life LeGeros, and his wife, Melanie, and their two children, Zoe and Ayla, who live in Boston, Mass. Their daughter, Nakula LeGeros, lives in Burlington, Vt. Patti Bates resides in Kaneohe, Hawaii, and is the Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President of a Mental Health Corporation.

According to Harold, “We have lived the American dream. The community of Martin has been very good to us. We built our lives on hard work, and have enjoyed our retirement years. My favorite activity now is coffee with the boys.”

And holding hands...

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