It is with great sadness that we mark the passing of William (Bill) Ernest Bates, born February 28, 1929 in West Ham, London, England. He passed away peacefully on Friday, July 26 with his daughter-in-law and her sister singing at his bedside.
William was born into a large, poor family, in a row house in the east end of London. He was ten years old when World War II broke out and eleven when the Blitz started, initially targeting the dock areas of East London where he lived. After a few bombing raids, he was evacuated along with most children to boarding schools in the countryside outside London. His mother and siblings were sent in different directions and he hardly saw them again until after the war was over. His father stayed behind to work in the docks and lost three houses through the course of the war. His Dad died of a heart attack in 1942. The stress of living through the worst of the London Blitz had broken his heart and spirit.
Billy did well at school and teachers took note of his intelligence. Upon graduation (Grade 8) at 14 years old, he finished top of the school. The school board offered him a scholarship to attend a technical college. Even with the scholarship, his family couldn’t afford to not have him earning money and he didn’t go. His mother didn’t tell him about the scholarship until years later. After his Dad died, the union sympathetically gave him a job in the docks where he was probably expected to spend the rest his working life. Fate intervened in 1947 at age 18 when he was drafted into the British army.
The army did some aptitude tests and they too realized that this cockney boy from the East End was pretty sharp. Code breaking during the war had spurred the development of early computers. At the end of his basic training, he was selected to go on a course in London concerning ‘Data Processing’, something unheard of in those days. He completed the course, had two week’s leave with his family and was then shipped off to Egypt. He spent 15 months near the Port Fayid on the Suez Canal working at ‘GHQ’ operating a punched card machine.
Bill often said ‘In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king’. Upon demobilization from the army, he had some skills and knowledge that put him at the forefront of the data processing revolution as early as 1948. He was quickly snapped up by a ‘tech’ company in London and his real lifetime career took flight. While installing a new data processing system in Watford in 1954, he met Peggy who was working as a keypunch operator. They fell in love and planned to get married. Having been independent for most of his life and used to being away from his family, Bill decided that Canada might be a nice place to go and live for a while. So the very day after their wedding, Bill and Peggy jumped on a ship to Canada and started their new life together. For the next 58 years were rarely apart.
After landing in Montreal, they eventually settled in Toronto. Bill became the ‘Director of Data Processing’ for City of North York and worked there until he retired in 1986 with a good pension. They moved to a little waterfront property on the Trent River and enjoyed a busy retirement of gardening and travel. The poor boy from the East End of London had done very well for himself. In 2004, both at age 75, they sold their property and moved to Salmon Arm to be closer to their grandchildren.
Bill will be remembered for his quick wit, sense of humour, thriftiness and love for his family. He was a great Dad and an even better Granddad. He is survived by his loving wife Peggy, his sons, Stephen and Alan, Alan’s wife Debbie and their children Hannah, Rachel and Teslyn. He is also survived by his dear sister Bess in England. He will be missed by all of his relatives scattered between England and Australia. We are sad to see you go Dad. Apart from that everything is okay.
Much appreciation goes out to the medical staff at Shuswap Lake General Hospital and the staff at Bastion Extended Care Facility for their work, compassion and care for Bill. In lieu of flowers, please support Canadian Cancer Research
Arrangements are in the care of Bowers Funeral Home and Crematorium, Salmon Arm, BC
On line condolences may be sent to Bill’s obituary at www.bowersfuneralservice.com