Jo Ellen Bates was born on July 2, 1944, to Hermon T. and Frances Jones. She was peacefully called to eternal rest on Sunday, June 9, 2019, at her home.
Born a scholar destined to soar, Jo Ellen excelled at a very young age in all her classes. Educated in Haywood County, she graduated co-valedictorian of the Class of 1961 from Carver High School. Along with her scholastic achievements, Jo Ellen was a proud “Brownsville City Girl” Caverite cheerleader. She began her college education at Tennessee A & I State University. It was at TSU that she met the love of her life, Willie Earl Bates. They married, and to this union, they had two beautiful children, Roman Earl and Patrice Simone. She transferred to Memphis State, where she earned her Bachelors, and Masters degrees.
Like so many, worshipping and attending church were not options for Jo Ellen and her three brothers – her parents took them there. Jo Ellen was baptized at First Baptist Church Brownsville. Among the many childhood activities, Sunshine Circle, BTU, Vacation Bible School, and Sunday school helped set the foundation for her physical, mental and spiritual aptitude. After marriage and moving to Memphis, she became a faithful member of Metropolitan Baptist Church. She served as a member of the Deacon and Trustee Wives, Mary Jane Owen Fellowship, and July Birth Month Fellowship.
For over 40 years, she worked with Memphis City Schools as a high school Business Education teacher. Her teaching career began at Hamilton High School, then Fairley High for over 22 years, and ended at Booker T. Washington High. Sometimes known as a Quiet Storm, Mrs. Bates was always a very stern, yet loving and nurturing teacher. She always encouraged and expected her students’ best at all times. She was passionate about her job and took it very seriously. She served as the Vocational Office Education (VOE) sponsor, coaching students to compete on the local, state and national levels. Fairley High was the school where she served most of her teaching tenure - also working as the senior class sponsor for over fifteen years. Just before retiring from MCS, she and her husband became business partners and renovated the historic Four Way Grill property. The Bates family began a two-year renovation and remodeling project that transformed the grill into a full-service dining facility, the Four Way Restaurant. It continues its rich tradition and reputation for “rightly seasoned” food and has earned accolades and is featured in national publications such as The New York Times, Zimmern’s List, Showtime’s “A Season with Navy Football”, The Travel Channel and Food Network. After her dear husband of 54 years passed in 2016, she didn’t hesitate to make her daughter, Patrice, her new business partner. Over the last three years, she used her business skills and knowledge to empower her daughter to continue the family legacy of managing the daily business operations.
In her free time, she enjoyed playing bridge. She was a member of Les Cheres Bridge Club for over 40 years and Memphis City Schools Retired Teachers Association. She was an active Diamond Life member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. – Memphis Alumni Chapter. As a Christian woman, Jo Ellen took pride in whatever she did. Her family was first and foremost! Being a mother and grandmother were her proudest moments. She loved her husband and children dearly but simply adored her two grandchildren. She often said, “If I knew being a grandmother was going to be this great, I would have had them first!” Her grandson affectionately named her Iya, which he always said meant Royal Queen. Her granddaughter, who she lovingly called her sweet Jelly Bean, is her namesake, JoElle Simone. They were truly the joy of her life. She helped to mold and shape them into the faithful Christian young adults they are today by always reminding them, “You know who you are, and you know whose you are.” Jo Ellen was preceded in death by her parents, Hermon and Frances Jones; her husband, Willie Earl Bates; her son, Roman Earl Bates; and two brothers, Andrew and Terry Jones. Loving memories will be cherished by her daughter, Patrice Bates Thompson; a son-in-law, Jerry W. Thompson; two grandchildren, Jerry Rashaan and JoElle Simone; one brother, Hermon Paul Jones; three sisters, Barbara Bates Payne, Jeanette Bates Reynolds and Sallie Jones; god-grandson, Jon M. Dailey; god-son, Gordon Ashley Dobbins; nieces, nephews, and a host of other relatives and friends.
The visitation for Mrs. Bates will be at the Metropolitan Baptist Church at 807 Walker on Friday June 14, 2019 from 4 - 6PM. The funeral service will be at the Metropolitan Baptist Church 807 Walker on Saturday June 15, 2019. The interment will follow at Elmwood Cemetery.
Flowers are delivered by the preferred local florist of R.S. Lewis & Sons Funeral Home.
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