- June 10, 2021
Joseph Cates was born on May 8, 1935, in Wink Texas to Elate and Walton Cates. He moved many times during his youth and ended up in Midland, TX where he graduated from Midland High School, then went on to the University of Texas at Austin. From there he joined the United State Air Force. He did his basic training at Harlingen AFB. Joe was a 1st Lieutenant and flew as a navigator/bombardier on B52’s in Strategic Air Command. He met his wife, Jeanne Helen Cates, in Altus OK while stationed there. They were married on December 26, 1958. Their first child Leslie Cates was born in the AFB hospital on Nov 2, 1959. After leaving the Air Force he went to work for NASA. During that time, his son, Leigh was born in Houston, TX in 1964. While at NASA he was awarded the Apollo Achievement Award from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in July of 1969. He then received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1970 for his work on the Apollo XIII Mission Operations Team.
Joe also worked in the nuclear industry for many years. He and Jeanne then worked together in the property management business. Later they moved to Maryland where he worked at the Naval Research Laboratory in the Chemistry, Acoustics, and R&D Services Divisions.
After retiring Joe and Jeanne moved to Bakersfield, California. While there Joe built his own racecar, a Lotus “7” from the ground up. It was a source of amusement for the neighbor as when he tested the engine, the exhaust was so loud the pictures slipped crooked on their walls. A member of the British Car Club, he and Jeanne spent many hours tootling around California. He even took the opportunity to run his “7” on the Button Willow Raceway in an exhibition race with other classic cars.
Joe and Jeanne eventually moved to Pflugerville, TX to be closer to their children, grandchild and great granddaughter. They were members of the Baca Center, and Joe was in plays and did a vaudeville type act as well: he painted with the Art Group and wrote short stories with the Writers Group. Joe was also a member of the Austin Palette Club. He never met a stranger and made the best sandwiches and was always a reliable source of hard candies. He was a loving father, grandfather and great grandfather. He will be greatly missed by his wife, family and many friends.