Resident Spotlight: Sam and Ellie Bates

A True Match Made in Heaven

Sam and Ellie Bates

Edna Mae (Ellie) Suggs was born September 9, 1934, in Vernon, Alabama. She immediately was moved to Columbus, Mississippi to her grandparents farm. They helped raise her until the age of six. Her father, Cecil Suggs was the Fire Chief in Columbus, who also ran a restaurant with Ellie’s mother, Vurla.

Ellie graduated high school in Columbus and attended The “W”, aka, the Mississippi University for Women, where she earned her teaching credentials. She taught school in Columbus for four years while earning her Masters Degree from Mississippi State. Upon receiving her degree, she was asked to take a teaching job in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Her strong will and can do attitude along with her passion for kids (especially those at risk) landed her the job of Principal and Administrator for the Virginia Beach City School System. And though she loved to teach, she saw the opportunity to have more of an impact on the lives of more children an Administrator.

Samuel Andrew Bates, Jr. was born March 30, 1940, in Seattle, Washington. His father, Samuel Sr., sold industrial plumbing supplies along the Pacific coast for 40 years, and his mother, Anita, maintained the household. Sam graduated from Ballard High School in Seattle and went on to the University of Washington, where he joined a fraternity and focused more on the good times, instead of his studies. After his 3rd year of school, the Cuban Missile Crisis had occurred and the Vietnam War was heating up, so in order to avoid getting drafted by the Army, he enlisted in the Navy.

He began his basics in San Diego and was sent to the Treasure Island School in San Fransisco to study electronics. After about a year he found himself in Cape Canaveral on the Observation Island, a Fleet Ballistic Missile Test Ship, where he was a Navigation Equipment Tech. Due to his substantial amount of electronics training, he was then sent to Pearl Harbor for 2 years to do Submarine Navigation Training and Electronics Training. The next 3 years were spent on survey ships conducting deep water bottom surveys for submarines – half in the Pacific and half in the Atlantic.

Ellie & Sam on their Wedding Day May 1973

He was finally sent for training to Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he met Ellie. They began dating in the spring of 1972 after a faculty party held by a friend of Ellie’s. They had actually met a few days prior at a friend of Sam’s house, who happened to be married to a colleague of Ellie. They were invited to make ice cream and as the evening came to an end, Ellie, who lived down the street, decided to walk home. As she set out, Sam got in his blue VW Bug and headed her way. He waved and tooted his horn as he passed on by. Ellie was no longer impressed. As fate would have it, the two were brought back together and on May 5, 1973, they were married.

Sam then spent 3.5 years on the USS Inchon, an amphibious assault ship where he went up the ranks to become a Command Master Chief Petty Officer. Ellie ended up being the ship’s ombudsman, helping the sailors families, while still running the schools and raising their son, Kenneth. Sam retired from the Navy on May 30, 1982. He got his business degree from George Washington University and and Engineering/ Tech degree from Old Dominion. He continued working with Navy contractors and worked 10 years for a shipyard in Norfolk, but when the Cold War ended, so did the Navy contracts and he was laid off in 1993.

Sam retires from the Navy May 30, 1982

Sam soon found a job at Lockheed Martin in Moorestown, New Jersey, while Ellie stayed back to finish her obligations and sell the house in Virginia. She retired in 1996, and she and Ken moved north. Sam officially retired in 2006.

Over the years they had two separate acquaintances, one in Virginia and the other in New Jersey that mentioned Kirby Pines to them. Each had family living at Kirby that said it was a wonderful place to live. They received information in the mail and had spoken with Marketing, who is always quite persuasive.

In September of 2012, they decided to stop at Kirby Pines on the way to visit family in Texas and were put up in one of the guest rooms. Two days later, Ellie was getting her hair done, while Sam signed the paperwork. They have been happy here ever since.

Ellie’s uncle made all the arrangements and helped them move in with a crew he hired. With Ellie in her house coat watching her new home come together, 3 women came knocking, invited her to dinner and asked if they needed anything – she knew they were home.

Ellie is a firm believer that the Lord has guided them both through life and that opportunities have always come as a blessing. We are blessed that He brought this lovely couple to Kirby Pines.