Legislators descended upon the capitol building in Salem last week for a series of interim committee meetings. But before conducting the peoples’ business, they convened in the Senate chamber to pay their respects to Sen. Alan Bates (D-Ashland), who passed away August 5.
Bates’ Tuesday, September 20 memorial service was attended by both former and current state lawmakers, staffers, lobbyists and members of the news media alike. Oregon Congressional delegation members Suzanne Bonamici and Kurt Schrader joined former governors Barbara Roberts and Ted Kulongoski, Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, Governor Kate Brown and Salem oncologist and Republican gubernatorial nominee Bud Pierce in honoring Bates’ memory.
Soft piano music created appropriate ambiance as quotes about Bates from political heavyweights like Brown and House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) appeared on large screens, accompanied by similar remarks from citizens from throughout the state.
Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) banged the gavel to start the ceremony, as he’s accustomed to doing as that chamber’s presiding officer. Representatives from the military honored Bates’ service in the Army and as a veteran of the Vietnam War before Sen. Rod Monroe (D-Portland) gave the invocation.
Monroe told an anecdote about a time he was ill and his wife urged him to call Bates, who spent much of his professional career as a physician. Bates showed up five minutes later with his black doctor’s bag “and he never sent me a bill,” Monroe said, prompting quiet laughter from the audience.
Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick (D-Portland) said that Bates served with “passion, integrity and honor.”
“As I look in this chamber, I see people Doc loved,” she said. “I see people he healed.”
Brown said that Bates left an “indelible mark” on the Legislature.
“In many ways, he was the heart of the Senate,” Brown said. “His heart was to help people.”
Kotek offered similar praise for Bates.
“Alan Bates was a lot more than a nice guy,” Kotek said. “He was considered a colleague and friend by so many.”
Bates’ daughter, Keri, said he was a “humble man” and a “master mediator” who brought people together to get things done.
“He would have hated all this fuss,” she said. “But he would have appreciated it, nonetheless.”
Sen. Jackie Winters (R-Salem) was one of many lawmakers Bates had assisted with health issues over the years.
“I did as he advised, and am healthier for it,” Winters said. “I wish I could have thanked him one more time for his care and his compassion.”
A video presentation of photos from Bates’ life showed him as a boy, as a Cub Scout, in military uniform, flyfishing, sitting pensively during a committee meeting and with his grandkids and other family members.
Courtney credited Bates for never backing away from difficult issues.
“He always took the tough vote,” Courtney said, and did it “over and over again.”
In closing, Courtney told a story about a day during last February’s legislative session when he was feeling under the weather. Bates left him some orange juice and insisted that he drink it. Courtney said he did, and was much better afterwards.
“Thank you for always being on call for us,” Courtney said. “What are we going to do without you?”