Mary Ellen Bates
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Dear family and friends, it is with deep sorrow that I tell you that Mary Ellen died on Valentine's Day, February 14, 2013.
Mary Ellen was born on December 20, 1920 in Vancouver, Washington to parents William C. and Theresa A. Bates. She was very close to her parents and in her own words, "I learned my basic standards and morals, the spirit of fair play, sportsmanship, ethics, and decency from them."
She graduated from the Vancouver school system in 1939 as Salutatorian of her high school class and obtained a Bachelor's Degree in Sociology from Reed College in Portland, Oregon. After college she was offered a civil service job, but did not accept it "because I felt that I could do more in the national emergency by joining the Women's Army Corps (WAC). My objective in joining the WAC was to do whatever I could, whenever I could, and do it well."
Mary Ellen began her military career as a private and she believed that it was important for her to live with the enlisted women so that after she became an officer she would better understand their life. After completing Officer's Candidate School Mary Ellen was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in December 1943 and continued officer training at Ft. Oglethorpe, GA. During WWII from April 1944 to November 1945 Mary Ellen served as a WAC Detachment Executive Officer in New Guinea and with the LIBERATION and LUZON Campaigns in the Philippines.
Following the hostilities, Mary Ellen pursued graduate studies at Smith College where she was awarded a Master of Education degree in 1947. During her 1947-48 academic year she also was employed as a sociology instructor. Her law school studies at the University of Washington were interrupted in 1950 when she was recalled to active duty during the Korean conflict. During the first two years she served as Deputy Officer-in-Charge for the training of women Royal Air Force personnel at Hawkinge RAF Station in the UK. During her tenure in England, Mary Ellen once had tea with Queen Mother Elizabeth and met composer Irving Berlin.
Mary Ellen became an Honorary Submariner with the US Navy in 1962. LCDR J.D. Reilly Jr attested that "it was made know to all good sailors of the seven seas that Maj M.E. Bates , USAF was totally submerged in the USS Cutlass. In consequence of such dunking and 'his' initiation into the mysteries of the deep, 'he' is hereby designated an Honorary Submariner. Be it therefore proclaimed 'he' is a true and loyal 'son' of the Wearers of the Dolphins."
Mary Ellen's duty stations include the following posts: Maxwell AFB, Montgomery, AL; Lackland AFB, San Antonio, TX; Armed Forces Staff College, Norfolk, VA; Richards-Gebaur AFB, Kansas City, MO. Her foreign service posts include the SW South Pacific, South Korea, England, and France with Combat Report for New Guinea and the Philippines.
Decorations and Awards: Air Force Commendation Medal, WWII Victory Medal; Women's Army Corps Service Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three Bronze Stars; Philippine Liberation Ribbon with Bronze Star; Armed Forces Reserve Medal; Air Force Outstanding Administrative Staff Officer Award; National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Star; Air Force Longevity Service Award with four Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters.
Thank you for this opportunity to tell you about Mary Ellen's remarkable life. Her funeral service will be private, however, you may remember Mary Ellen with a donation to St Francis of Assisi Episcopal Church in Gulf Breeze or to WSRE-TV in Pensacola.
Annie R. Collett
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Published in Pensacola News Journal from Feb. 20 to Feb. 24, 2013