A Life Lived: Gary Pate’s calling was teaching and reaching out to the needy

Published 1:10 pm Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Gary Pate grew up in East Texas, but became an East Tennessean when he married Charlotte Bice, whom he met at a church conference in Cleveland, Tenn. He and Charlotte first met in 1967 and for the next two years attended the Cleveland conference. The couple married in 1970 and moved to Mount Pleasant Texas, and then, in 1981 they moved to Elizabethton, Charlotte’s hometown, and it was home to Gary until he died May 31 at the age of 78.
Gary Pate was well-known to Carter Countians, having worked at White’s Grocery Store and later at Tetrick Funeral Home as a funeral assistant for 19 years, retiring in 2007. However, his favorite ministry was the 12 years he served as chaplain at Ivy Hall Nursing Home. During that time Gary was a familiar figure at Ivy Hall. “He enjoyed ministering to the residents and being a friend to them. Often when a resident was able to leave the home, Gary continued his relationship with them. After one resident moved back home, Gary often picked up her groceries and delivered them,” Charlotte shared.
When COVID struck, Gary was unable to visit the nursing home, but often called residents via the phone to check on them.
“Gary loved people. He enjoyed helping them and sharing the Word with them. He especially enjoyed the staff and residents at Ivy Hall,” Charlotte said. 
Gary’s other great love was Valley Forge Free Will Baptist Church, where for many years he had taught the Sanctuary Class. “He loved to teach the subject of “How We Got the Bible,” and did so at several area churches. Each time he taught the study, he studied even more,” said Charlotte.
“Gary had a lot of head knowledge, but coupled with that was a heart of love and compassion,” shared his wife.
Charlotte often said that Gary was born in the wrong era. “Had he been given a choice, he’d have loved to been a mountain man, a cowboy, or an Indian. He enjoyed westerns and movies that featured cowboys and Indians. He had a head full of useless trivia. We couldn’t watch TV without him sharing some trivia about the actors. When he was a boy growing up, he went to the movies every Saturday,” Charlotte shared with a laugh.
Gary also enjoyed nature and being outside. According to his wife, Gary enjoyed hiking in the woods and sitting by mountain streams. He was a collector of books, knives, magazines, little cute boxes, and some things Charlotte referred to as “just clutter.”
Gary and Charlotte did not have any children of their own, but were the adopted grandparents of Michael Scott Bandarra. “He always called Gary “Papa.” 
“He and Michael spent a lot of time together, and enjoyed each other’s company,” Charlotte said.
When Gary wasn’t out visiting or doing something for others, he was usually on the phone checking in with the sick and homebound or friends from the church. “Gary loved his Valley Forge Free Will church friends, and he felt he had done some of his best teaching at the church there,” Charlotte shared.
Gary Pate was known all over town, not only by church people, but from his days working at the grocery store and funeral home. He had a smile that would reach across town, and always had a kind and encouraging word for those whose he came in contact with.
Gary Pate truly practiced what he preached: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Today, his voice is stilled, he has taught his final Bible class. He is with the Master whom he loved and taught so much about. His work is done and he is “resting high on that mountain a-shouting love for the Father and Son” he taught about.