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COVID-19 In Chicago: Remembering Ada Mae Bates, Who Made Friends Wherever She Went

CBS Chicago logoCBS Chicago 1/20/2021 Syndicated Local – CBS Chicago

CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago’s buildings went dark early Tuesday evening in participation with the National COVID-19 Memorial Service.

In Illinois alone, there had been 18,208 brothers and sisters, parents, grandparents, friends, and coworkers and counting as of Tuesday who had died of COVID-19. CBS 2’s Jim Williams on Tuesday introduced us to one of them – Ada Mae Bates – a woman who made friends wherever she went.

Bates extended hospitality to all – said her daughters, Lynnette Autman and April Bates.

And they mean all.

“The guy came to cut the grass, she would have lunch made for him. Always,” April Bates said.

“She would have work done on the house and she was, instead of him outside doing the work, he was in the house. She was feeding him, and cooked this big meal,” Autman said, “and we’re like, ‘Mom, you know, he’s supposed to be working.’”

“She’s like, ‘He’s got to eat,’” April Bates said.

Miss Bates’ daughters talked about how everyone loved her sweet potato pie and coconut cake she made for the church bake sale. And when her husband of more than 50 years suffered a massive stroke, there would be no nursing home – Miss Bates’s would take of him.

“He had to be changed. He had a feeding tube. All that,” Autman said. “She did all of that for him.”

Miss Bates had come to the Chicago area from Mississippi – part of the Great Migration of African-Americans to the north. She made a life for herself in Joliet – wife, mother, grandmother.

“This is the grandkids. Can you see this?” April Bates said, holding up quite a crowded photo. “And that is not all of them – that it’s like 30, 40, 50.”

Miss Bates was also a great-grandmother, and after she retired from her first job, she drove a school bus well into her 70s.

Ada Mae Bates died of COVID in May. She was 86.

She never met a stranger.

“I want everyone to know that my mom was the greatest person that I could have ever wanted – the things that I have learned, the things that she has taught me could never be replaced by anyone else,” April Bates said. “She was the greatest in my eyes.”

Ada Mae Bates’s daughters offered get their mother an air conditioner, and she would turn it down – but still insist on baking those delicious pies in the middle of summer.

“The heat doesn’t bother me,” she’d say. “I’m from the South.”

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