Kates, Sumner Roy, 96,
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RAN PERIODICAL DISTRIBUTION FIRM
Sumner Roy Kates was a Harvard Crimson man to his core. In his erudite yet humble way, Mr. Kates enriched all those who crossed his path. Sometimes it was with a line of Alfred Noyes poetry like "go down to Kew in lilac time (it isn't far from London) and you shall wander hand in hand with love in summer's wonderland." Sumner, along with his brother Marshall, never missed a Harvard reunion and contributed to the university and community in many ways. That included bus rides from the Harvard Club of Boston to New Haven for The Game, and attending the greatest one of all time – in 1968 when Harvard "beat" Yale 29-29. Sumner was a conservative in dress and political beliefs (yet also libertarian) and was an impassioned speaker. He had a raging wit. He loved to laugh, always had a sparkle of mischief in his eye, referred to himself as an irascible, iconoclastic, incorrigible curmudgeon and followed politics with great enthusiasm. He was an avid golfer for many years and a member of both Pine Brook and Boca West country clubs. The brothers were also long time members of the Newton Squash & Tennis Club. Mr. Kates kept strong New England values like keeping a shirt with a frayed sleeve. As he put it to his son James, "That was genteel poverty." Sumner was born in Lowell, MA and attended school there before transferring to Philips Academy Andover in 1936. On graduation, he took a year off spent mostly loading newspapers onto trucks for his father Max's business. That winter Max had Sumner drive his mother Irene to Florida in a ploy to inspire him to immerse himself with Shakespeare. The combination of activities worked and Sumner quoted the "Tomorrow" soliloquy from Macbeth up to his final days. The year off also ensured that he and Marshall would enter Harvard together and graduate in the class of 1943. Sumner earned a B.A. in English and American Literature. During World War II, Mr. Kates worked in a munitions plant. Following the war he joined Marshall in the family business, a periodical distribution network that their father started in 1907. Mr. Kates ran Atlas News in the Worcester area while his brother oversaw Merrimack News in the Lowell/Lawrence area. The companies distributed newspapers, magazines and paperback books and the Kates brothers owned and operated the Book Corner retail chain. Sumner was an associate director of
periodical trade group ACIDA (Atlantic Coast Independent Distribution Association). Sumner and Marshall ran these businesses for nearly 40 years but astutely anticipated the challenges of technology, ultimately selling them to the company now known as Hudson News in 1982. Sumner worked six day weeks for much of his career, but was dedicated to his family. He leaves adopted son James Declan Tobin of Brookline and Boca Raton. At James' Harvard graduation Sumner proudly welcomed his son to "the club". Mr. Kates also considered business associate George Cobane of Sutton, MA his foster son and as George put it,"We both received nothing but encouragement and support. Occasionally, I'd set him off like the time I decided I wanted a motorcycle. He was adamant that it was too dangerous, but for my 25th wedding anniversary he gave me a toy motorcycle". Sumner also leaves sister in law Jacqueline of Cambridge, niece Nancy of Berkeley, CA and nephew, Mark, wife Beth and grand nephew Nicholas of Brookline. Mr. Kates travelled extensively, from Italy to Ireland to Puerto Rico to Yellowstone National Park. In Sicily (and in his eighties) Sumner both climbed the flowered cliff pathway to Tiberius' Palace and entered the Blue Grotto cave. Sumner's generosity took many forms, especially when it came to his beloved alma maters, Harvard and Andover.
Sumner and son James donated The Kates/Tobin community room at Harvard's Quincy House and along with Marshall named rooms in the university's Warren House and Baker Center. At Andover Sumner and James donated the English Department faculty room, and Sumner and Marshall contributed substantially to the school's Bell Tower renovation, and donated a field in Max's name. Sumner lived most of his retirement in Boca Raton, FL but made an annual September pilgrimage to Boston on the occasion of his birthday, faithfully visiting his alma maters where he will be remembered fondly by many.
A funeral service will be held at Levine Chapels, 470 Harvard Street, Brookline
at 1:00PM on Sunday, February 28.
Burial will be Lindwood Memorial Park, Randolph.
Levine Chapels, Brookline
Published in Boston Herald on Feb. 26, 2016