It took half his life for Dean Bates to realize just how important he was to the Lord.
Living in Florida and unemployed for 11 months, 55-year-old Bates fell to his knees in his living room and asked for divine help in securing a job. It wasn’t long before he received a call from the son of the owner of St. Lawrence Hydraulics in Romulus, Mich. The son was visiting the Sunshine State and wanted to meet for lunch with Bates to discuss a position that eventually lasted six years, until he was downsized with the company’s closing in 1993.
Born and raised in Fayette, Bates had attended the Methodist church there and followed its tenets, but felt like just another joe that God wasn’t particularly focused on. “I faithfully went to church and did everything you could do before I realized that the Lord knew me personally at the age of 55,” he said.
Bates said his realization made the phone call that led to work that much more miraculous. “Eleven days later I’m in Romulus, signing an appointment agreement for a company I hadn’t been in touch with,” he said. “That’s when I said, ‘Lord, you gotta be real. There’s no question about it, you’re the answer to my prayer.’ That turned my life around, and I’ve never been the same since.”
This past June, 30 years after Bates reached his epiphany, the now 86-year-old author released his first book, “Grandpa’s Walk with the Lord.” Published by Xulon Press, the pages guide the reader through hundreds of Bates’ personal, detailed testimonies proving “that the Lord has been a part of my adventuresome life all along. He’s been faithful all these years, even though I didn’t know it.”
The book is available at Barnes and Noble and other book stores, and on Amazon,
A Fayette High School graduate, Bates attended Defiance College for a year before transferring to West Point Military Academy. As a teenage member of the Civil Air Patrol, a government organization under which private pilots learned search and rescue techniques to recover downed aircraft, he wanted to pursue an aviation career.
Bates received an Air Force commission and became a pilot and instructor for jet aircraft. He flew throughout the U.S., then in Germany for three years. But then the Vietnam War loomed, “and I decided I didn’t need that,” and Bates left the military.
He went to work for Singer Link, a New York company, where for 31 years he built flight simulators for U.S. airlines, most of that time as manager of international customer support. Projects led him across the country and across the ocean to Ethiopia, Kenya, India, Finland, and Australia.
It was at a cocktail party thrown by Ethiopian Airlines where he met a doctor who immediately recognized that Bates was suffering from Bell’s palsy, a temporary weakness or paralysis affecting facial muscles. Doctors in the States told him nothing could be done.
The Ethiopian doctor suggested Bates visit his office, saying he knew a treatment to resolve the illness. Within two weeks of a regime involving cortisone shots and a vitamin B series, Bates’ affliction was nearly gone, then eventually disappeared.
“What a difference it made, because my signature is my smile,” he said. “I attribute these adventuresome stories to the Lord being in my life.”
“Grandpa’s Walk with the Lord” is chock full of examples in Bates’ life where he believes the Lord saved him from disasters and performed countless miracles.
The most dramatic example occurred when he was teaching formation take-off to Air Force student pilots. The lead plane during one exercise took off too abruptly, causing the craft to stall directly in the path of Bates’ aircraft.
“I was miraculously able to to avoid it. I should have been in a ball of fire. I don’t know why – it just wasn’t my time,” he said.
In another instance, he was piloting “Empathy,” his longtime cruiser sailboat, on Lake Huron when he was notified of an approaching storm. Bates found a sheltered area and dropped two anchors to weather it out. The next day one of the anchors was so mired in mud Bates had to cut the line. He also learned that before reaching him the storm hit craft in an annual sailboat race that had begun in Chicago. It sunk one of the boats, causing the first fatality in the race’s 109-year-old history.
“Saved again, Lord, thank you so much,” Bates said.
After losing his job in Michigan, he started a 19-year house painting and repair business back in Florida that he considered a ministry to help others. The income supplemented his Social Security payments, but persistent problems with his knees forced him to quit at age 80. “The Lord had his plans,” he said.
He moved back to Fayette 10 years ago with his wife, Katie, his high school sweetheart and companion for 58 years before she died five years ago. Prior to her death, the couple had sailed “Empathy” around Florida, over five trips to the Bahamas, and up the East Coast during a trip 10 years ago, which ultimately ended in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
“We were 76 years old when we started out (on that trip). We were like a couple of kids having fun,” he said, fondly recalling his wife. “She was my Matey Katie. She was willing to go along but she didn’t want to be responsible. ‘Just tell me what to do,’ she’d say. She was very adventuresome.”
Bates, who has traced his lineage back to Mayflower passengers John and Priscilla Owens, plans to write several more books at a rural Fayette retreat he has access to, including one about life after a spouse’s death. “I know the Lord has a plan for me, and I’ve never had a depressed day in the five years,” he said.
His second book, “Experiencing the Holy Spirit,” is almost completed. Bates said the Lord has already inspired him with titles for future publications.
He wrote “Grandpa’s Walk with the Lord” to stimulate readers into looking at their own lives.
“I wanted to try to help others deal with this unseen world we’re dealing with…to try to help them come to the realization that they, too, have a story to tell. We all are led, whether we think so or not,” Bates said.
“I’m a strong believer in testimonies, and that’s why i can write inspired writing, knowing the Lord is with me 24/7.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.