Cover photo for Paul E. Bates's Obituary
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1950 Paul 2018

Paul E. Bates

April 26, 1950 — December 18, 2018

CARBONDALE - Paul Edward Bates, age 68, of Carbondale, Illinois, passed away on Tuesday, December 18, 2018, at his home supported in love by his family.

He was born April 26, 1950, to Ted and Ellen Bates in Fort Dodge, Iowa. The family moved to Decatur, Illinois, when he was an infant. His boyhood revolved around sports and the love of the game. He was a strong leader as a young boy. He would organize teams, set rosters, and formulate game schedules to be played at the Decatur park district, with no adult presence, and laughed that his coaching career began at the age of 8. He attended Decatur MacArthur high school, undersized and underweight, yet gritty, and played varsity baseball as a sophomore. He was the point guard on the basketball team as a senior. He always took the point. He never stopped leading and competing.

Paul attended Illinois State University for undergraduate studies and the University of Wisconsin-Madison for his graduate studies, earning a Doctorate in Philosophy, and Master of Science degrees in Social Work and Studies in Behavioral Disabilities. He took the “inside track” (his words) to earn his degrees in record time, while raising two babies, who crawled all over him while he wrote papers, and working as a janitor and referee.

In 1972, he married Barbara Van Gelder. Paul and Barbara moved to Carbondale, Illinois, in 1978 where they raised four children, designed a home, and tended the land that they loved as a team, turning it into their “Paradise.”

Paul worked as a professor at Southern Illinois University. He taught in the Educational Psychology and Special Education department for 29 years. Paul was a pioneer in the field of special education and made countless contributions to individuals with disabilities and those who serve them. He is a nationally recognized author and expert in transition from school to adult life for those with disabilities and is known as the “Father of Transition Planning” by his colleagues. He retired from SIU in 2007 with the title of Emeritus Professor for his successful teaching career.

In 1995, he wrote Vicarious Thrills, a book that chronicled the Carbondale Terriers’ 1993-1994 basketball season, and celebrated his son’s accomplishments as a starting guard on the team. He often spoke in witty sports analogies and wrote that, “Moments of triumph in sport are similar to other climactic events in life, such as getting married and the birth of a child. These moments are forever etched in our memories and provide touchstones to times in our lives when things were simply and purely ‘right’.” Paul’s meaningful involvement with Terrier basketball and the coaching staff continued up until his recent illness.

He was a coach for many years in youth soccer, baseball, basketball, and track. He was a dedicated fan of all sports and sportsmanship, experiencing great joy in seeing others excel and reach their personal best. When describing his experiences as a Carbondale Athletics supporter and coach, he said, “I had a good time riding the wave of the kids’ emotions.” He was a coach on and off the court, as many remember the impact he had on them as a mentor in a dynamic variety of ways.

His greatest accomplishments came in the form of his four children, seven grandsons, and one granddaughter. The grandchildren called him Poppy, and he nurtured and fostered a special relationship with each of them, taking an invested interest in their unique gifts to the world. Spending time with his grandchildren was a highlight in his life and he never tired of giving them his undivided attention. He was known for showing videos of his grandchildren to anyone who would watch.

He was a strong believer in living a quality life, which consisted of interacting in the moment and seeing the brightness of a new day. He took pride in helping others through his humble interactions and genuine connections with a very large social network and community. He is remembered for his generosity, warmth, and smile that he shared with family, friends, and strangers.

In the months preceding his death, he bravely continued on his journey, as his adventurous spirit urged him to take point again as he hiked Ridge Trail in Telluride, Colorado, at 10,000 feet for nine consecutive days. He enjoyed precious time with his wife, children, and grandchildren. He went to games, watched westerns, enjoyed craft beer and spending time with his sauna crew, and played golf with friends, his brothers, his son, and his grandson. Paul lived his life one extraordinary ordinary day at a time. He carved paths out of the woods in southern Illinois just as his dad had done in the forests of northern Minnesota. He was a friend to many and to those who had few.

He is survived by his wife of 46 years, Barbara; three daughters, Megan of Carbondale, Illinois, Laurel (Brian) of Portland, Oregon, and Julia (Heather) of Chicago, Illinois; one son, Dylan (Billie) of San Diego, California; 8 grandchildren (Jackson, Mila, Aaron, Grant, James, Jakob, Jayden, and Luca); siblings Barbara, Joan, Randy (Vicky), Dennis (Ann), Brian (Lori), and many beloved nieces and nephews. He is preceded in death by his parents Ted and Ellen Bates, and brother-in-law Mete Sozen.

A celebration of life party will be held on January 12, 2019 from 4-8pm at SIU Student Recreation Center in Carbondale, Illinois (300 E. Grand Avenue). For more information, visit (RSVPs are appreciated but not necessary). Food, drinks, and connected conversations happening throughout the event, with a formal Celebration Service with eulogies and live music from 5:30-6:30pm.

Memorial contributions may be made to Terrier Athletics. Checks can be made to CCHS Education Foundation/Bates Memorial (1301 E. Walnut St., Carbondale, IL 62901).

Meredith Funeral Home handled the arrangements with professional care and respect.

To order memorial trees in memory of Paul E. Bates, please visit our tree store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Celebration of Life

Saturday, January 12, 2019

4:00 - 8:00 pm (Eastern time)

SIU Student Recreation Center

300 East Grand Avenue, Carbondale, IL 62901

For more information, go to:

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