J A Tate
There will be a celebration of “J” J A Tate’s life at the Presbyterian Church Friday at 2 O’clock. The longtime Rainbow Glacier church camp maintenance man died Friday May 9 at his home among family. He was 87 and had cancer.
The Tates came to the Presbyterian camp (and Haines) in 1982 after J retired from a 30 year-career at Southern California Edison as a power plant chemical technician in the Los Angeles area. J first saw Haines in 1966 on vacation with wife of 62 years Charline and their three children. The Tate’s took month-long biennial road trips in a VW bus. “J always said that what he liked best about traveling was the time with the kids,” Charline said.
Their first summer at the camp, J learned about off-grid power and water systems, tried to grow corn, and marveled at the calving glaciers, shore birds and sea life. He loved the setting and the Christian focus.
“Dad was motivated by faith,” daughter Lucy Tate said.
“J’s job was to keep the camp operational on a shoestring. He kept it running for 25 years. Without the Tates the camp never would have survived. It was a gift of love. Charline cooked and J ran everything else on a pittance.” Presbyterian Pastor Ron Horn said.
The Tate’s spent the summer and winter in Haines that first year and another ten years working seasonally at the camp, which was never far from J’s thoughts. “One year he decided we needed a swing set, so he spent the winter in California inspecting every school playground,” and then built one here, Charline said. They moved to Mosquito Lake where they wintered until 2001. J retired from the camp in 2006. Neighbor Carol Clifton gave both Tates art lessons for 19 years. “J painted a lot of local mountains, he liked animals, too. He was up for anything, he took it seriously, but he loved to laugh. He was kind, gentle, and a good sweet man.” Clifton said.
Tate also took piano lessons, was a dog lover, and amateur photographer. He served in the leadership of the Haines Presbyterian Church and sang in the choir.
J A Tate was born November 23 1926 in Panhandle, Texas to Roy, a clerk, and Alene (Wilson) Tate, a teacher. He was the oldest of four. J's siblings, Bob, Joe and Lou Ann all had more conventional names than his two initials which did not stand for anything. During WW II the family moved to Southern California where Roy worked in the defense industry. J graduated from Gardena High in January 1945 and joined the Navy, which required him to write his name in quotation marks as: “J” “A”. He served as a storekeeper in the Philippines until the war ended a few months later. Stateside, Tate attended Compton Junior College. He met Charline Dora at a dance hall and they married in the Gardena Presbyterian Church June 22, 1952. She fell for him when he fixed a flat tire. “He didn’t cuss or scream. I don’t like conflict. J never did lose his temper or get angry,” she said. They settled in Crestline, CA. where J’s life revolved around family, church, and work. He kept fit chopping wood, gardening, and cycling 32 miles to the power plant and back. “He had a flashlight taped to the handle bars with electrical tape,” son Leo said. J Tate served on the Crestline Presbyterian Church session and sang tenor in the choir. “I think he was involved in everything, other than giving the sermon,” Leo Tate said.
Haines Presbyterian Associate Pastor Crystal Badgley said he will be missed. “J would always answer the phone ‘Praise the Lord.’ I don’t know anybody who answers their phone like that, do you?”
In addition to Charline, J Tate leaves children Lucy Tate of Haines, Leo Tate of Gardnerville Nevada, and Priscilla Mund of Lead South Dakota and grandchildren Dustin and Shane Mund.
Donations in memory of J Tate may be made to Hospice of Haines, PO Box 1034, Haines AK 99827.