John Robert Cates

Wednesday, April 28, 2021
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John Robert Cates was born Oct. 21, 1943 in San Francisco, California. Growing up in the Bay Area led him to become a lifelong Oakland A’s and Raiders fan. He spent much of his youth caring for his two sisters, Barbara and Debbie, who preceded him in death. John proudly graduated from Bishop Manogue Catholic School in Reno, Nevada. After high school he enrolled in the Navy and served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea, enjoying ports throughout the globe. After the Navy, John worked for Safeway foods in California.

He met his wife, Bette, in 1970 and they married the next year. This past March they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. In 1975 they packed up and moved to Gardiner, Montana. They welcomed their first son, Jason (Abby) that November. Two years later on John’s birthday, they welcomed their daughter, Stephanie (Dan) Durham.

John worked for the Park Service in Yellowstone National Park before his retirement in 2002 after 26 years of service. In addition to his regular duties John also worked on Incident Command Teams throughout the country for forest fires, hurricanes and other government responses. In Gardiner he enjoyed hunting, fly fishing with his good buddies and playing cards at the Rusty Rail on the weekends. He served on the local school board and was active with the Fraternal Order of Eagles among other activities, including traveling across the state watching his kids play basketball, football and volleyball. 

After retirement, John and Bette moved to Belgrade to be closer to their grandkids. John spent time in his garden and taking care of his dog, Gus. After having four dogs named Sam, his kids were surprised to see Gus as the chosen name. John enjoyed traveling with Bette in their RV where he enjoyed crabbing on the Oregon coast among other stops. They also enjoyed cruises to Mexico and Alaska as well as many visits to their son in South Carolina.

Throughout his time in Montana, he enjoyed regular visits from his California, Utah, and Arizona families. They all loved visiting Uncle John. John’s greatest passion were his grandkids, Cooper, 16, Nataly, 14, Lily, 13, Cameron, 11, and Blake, 9. Nothing made him happier than being surrounded by them.

John passed away at his home from kidney disease on Friday, April 23, 2021, surrounded by family. John was preceded in death by his parents, Nadine and Richard Cates. He is survived by his immediate family, several sisters- and brothers-in-law, and nieces and nephews.

The family will be receiving friends and family for an open house at his daughter’s home this Saturday, May 1, from 2 to 6 p.m. at 57 Lawn Rain Drive in Bozeman. Food and beverages will be provided. Maybe even an Old Fashioned or two. Come for 15 minutes or the whole time. This will be a casual time to celebrate John’s life. A memorial will be private and held prior.

In lieu of flowers, John requested that donations be made to: Camp Happy Days, or Heart of the Valley Animal Shelter,

Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service.