Sarah Margaret Bates (nee Kemp) was born October 15, 1921 at the family home in El Dorado Springs, MO. She grew up on a dairy farm, the third of four children and was the last surviving child until her passing.
Margaret was the valedictorian of her High School, played snare drum in the local band and learned piano from her mother who taught piano. Margaret went on to get a B.S in English at Missouri State University, and a Master’s at Columbia University in New York City.
She returned to MO after graduation, where she met her future husband, Jefferson D. Bates, and they were married on October 21, 1949 in Springfield, MO. At the time, the newlyweds were both English teachers, but Jef soon found work in Washington DC as a technical writer and the two took up residence in Alexandria, VA. In 1952 after their son Bill was born, they moved to Arlington VA, and their daughter Stacy was born two years later.
In 1957 they moved to Kensington MD, where Margaret stayed home to care for her children and household. She became active in leading a Girl Scout troop, helping with piano classes, and basically being a popular “neighborhood Mom” to many of the nearby neighborhood kids.
Margaret and Jef had a mutual love of traditional jazz music throughout their lives together and would often attend shows at Washington DC clubs to see some of the best local jazz musicians. They befriended many of these local musicians and would sometimes have ‘jam session’ parties at their home. They also attended a few performances by big name acts like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie. Years later they would become members of the Potomac River Jazz Club, an organization that sponsored jazz shows locally and across the country.
She and Jef became active in the local little theater where they developed some strong friendships, and Margaret acted in a couple of the plays, while Jef did sound. Margaret always had a secret desire to perform and be on stage. She later took up tap dancing and once performed on the boardwalk of Rehobeth Beach, DE with her fellow students.
Both Margaret and Jef were active in their local Presbyterian church and sang in the choir. She led many women’s Bible Studies and was always conscientious in her preparation.
Over the years, the two traveled to England, Spain and Costa Rica, and often vacationed in elder hostels around the country in pursuit of lifelong learning. Around this time, Margaret was quite involved in the League of Women Voters.
In 2000, Jef began suffering significant health problems, and Margaret herself was dealing with Glaucoma and hearing loss, so in 2001 they moved to a retirement home in St. Petersburg, FL. After Jef passed away in 2002, Margaret spent the next 13 years developing strong friendships, composing poems for each resident’s birthday, and helping other residents, even as her own vision and hearing continued to worsen. She remained in otherwise excellent health and was active well into her 90’s, climbing 5 flights of stairs daily, walking on the treadmill, and lifting weights. She was loved by everyone at the retirement home and looked forward to the monthly dances and gatherings. She had a wide range of interests including all the news and sports, and loved to hear about current movies or TV shows.
At 94, Margaret moved from FL to live with her daughter and son in law in Huntsville, AL. She remained fiercely independent, even when she was nearly totally blind and inspired many by this and her perseverance in life. She refused to be helped with any of the things she could still do for herself, even if difficult. She took great pride in walking without an assistive device until she was 98 years old. During this time, her grandson, Bobby assisted in caring for her part time for two years. Grandson Zack and wife also gave respite care to relieve Stacy.
Margaret loved to go dancing at the local bar where Bobby bartended and went nearly every Saturday up until the onset of COVID. She was dearly loved by all the young regulars who admired her energy and took turns dancing with her. She was known to them as “Grandma”, “Miss Margaret”, and even “The Dancing Queen”!
By far, though, her greatest love was for her family, and she was devoted to her children and spouses, her two grandsons and (more recently), two great grandsons and always kept up with her extended family.
She is survived by son William L. Bates (Margie Bryce), and daughter Stacy E. Yungkurth (Chuck), Grandsons Zachary S. Yungkurth (Nivana) and Robert J. Yungkurth (Megan), and great grandsons Jack W. Yungkurth and Xavier C. Yungkurth.
A celebration of life will be held at Church of the Highlands, 330 Nance Rd., Huntsville, AL on August 13, 2022. Visitation 11 am to 12 Noon; Service 12 Noon -1 pm.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Glaucoma Research Foundation.