Sandy Bates, who inspired three generations of Catoosa kindergarten students and was beloved by all who knew her, died peacefully at home on Thursday, August 1, 2019, surrounded by her family. She was 79.
Sandra Lyn Rhea was born on Valentine's Day, 1940, in Los Angeles, to Norma Fern (Crider) Rhea and Marvin Clyde Rhea, Jr. Sandy attended Dewey, OK, public schools, Class of 1958. Sandy sang in the chorus and girls' quartet and worked as a soda jerk at Popkess Pharmacy.
Sandy met her future husband, Wayne David Bates from Nowata, at Falls Creek Baptist Assembly when they were 14. They were married in Dewey on January 22, 1961, and the couple had two children, Michael and Kay.
Sandy earned a bachelor's in elementary education at Northeastern State, where she would later return to earn a master's degree. Before moving to Tulsa, Sandy taught in Lawrence, KS, and Bartlesville.
From 1970 to 1998, Sandy Bates provided hundreds of Catoosa kindergarteners with a cheerful, loving start to their school years. Many students recount meeting her years later, and she would remember them and tell them how proud she was of them. Sandy was honored as Catoosa Teacher of the Year for 1983-84. One colleague wrote that "year after year, she would dip into her endless well of enthusiasm" and "took each child into her heart." As founder of the Association of Catoosa Classroom Teachers and leader of the bargaining team, "she was fearless, relentless in her pursuit of justice.... She spoke her mind when so many of us were too timid to do so." Another colleague wrote, "She was always encouraging to me.... Sandy looked for ways to keep her students excited about learning."
After retiring, Sandy continued an active life of service, while enjoying more time with her growing extended family. For Sandy's grandchildren, Grandma's house was a comforting, relaxing place. At Catoosa Library, she presented a weekly "Story Time with Miss Sandy." She and David made appearances around Tulsa each Christmas season as Santa and Mrs. Claus and volunteered at the Saint Francis Children's Hospital gift shop.
Through First Baptist Church downtown, Sandy taught English as a Second Language and helped Spanish-speaking newcomers to Tulsa, making many friends who treated her like family, and she used her Spanish skills on mission trips to Peru and Mexico. She volunteered at the church's Caring Center and served as director of the Facilitators Community Group.
Sandy believed that she could do all things through Christ who strengthened her (Philippians 4:13) and that her times were in God's hands (Psalm 31:15). Despite painful and fearful circumstances during her long battle with peritoneal cancer, Sandy continued to share Christ's love with those who cared for her.
Sandra Lyn Bates is survived by: her husband of 58 years, David Bates; son, Michael Bates and his wife, Mikki; daughter, Kay Strain and her husband, Mike; grandchildren, Kendall Strain, Jared Strain, Joseph Bates, Katherine Bates, and Matthew Bates; brother, Michael Rhea; and sisters, Connie Gordon and Gerry Rhea. She was preceded in death by her parents, M. C. and Fern Rhea, and by her youngest sister, Susan Rhea.
Services were held at First Baptist Church, Tulsa, under the direction of Moore Southlawn, followed by burial at Nowata Memorial Cemetery. Donations in Sandy's memory may be made to the First Baptist Church Caring Center and to Isaiah 58 In His Service (isaiah58ihs.org).