Mary Frances (Perrin) Gates was born on January 1, 1922 in Freeport, Illinois, the daughter of Delbert and Mary (Goodwin) Perrin. She graduated from Wilson High School in Cherokee, Iowa, in 1939. She attended St. Vincent Accredited College of Nursing earning her Registered Nursing Degree in 1943.
She enlisted in the US Navy Nurse Corps in 1944 with training at The Great Lakes Naval Base in Chicago, IL. She served during WWII in Glynco, GA, on a Blimp patrolling the east coast of the United States searching for German submarines. Later she requested duty preferably on a hospital ship outside the Continental US or any medical activity west of the Hawaiian Islands. At the time of her request there was no billet available. Upon this request she was transferred to Treasure Island, CA where her record was shown favorable consideration when a billet became available. This put her in a “Volunteer Pool” of nurses for transport duty rotation to the Pacific. Lieutenant (jg) Mary Frances Gates received an Honorable Release from Navy active duty on 3 August 1946.
She returned to Cherokee, IA in May, 1953 with her four children. Mary Fran worked as a staff nurse at Sioux Valley Hospital. She was employed at the Mental Health Institute (MHI) for 13 years as a staff nurse and an Inservice Educator. While raising four children she was involved in youth activities as a den mother, a 4-H leader, and in charge of a special childrens’ unit at MHI. She attended the University of Iowa College of Nursing earning her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in 1970. She was appointed director of nursing at Woodward State Hospital School in 1971 where she had overall responsibility of the nursing department, including nursing service and nursing education. She retired from the Woodward State Hospital School in 1984 after serving a total of 26 years for the state of Iowa.
During her time at Woodward she attended a luncheon with Mamie Eisenhower where they enjoyed talking about their grandchildren. She received a personal letter from Mamie following her visit. She also represented the Heart Association taking Governor Ray’s blood pressure as part of a signing event. She and Father John F. Cain sponsored a family from Vietnam and helped get their lives started in the United States. When Pope John Paul II came to Iowa in October, 1979, she was one of the first 20 people inside the gate along with her daughter-in-law and 5 grandchildren.
She was a Charter Member of the Catholic Daughters of America for 62 years. While in Iowa she was a CCD instructor and worked on several committees at the church. She worked closely with many priests including Father John F. Cain and Father Richard S. Ries. She was a Charter Member of the Trinity Heights Queen of Peace Shrine in Sioux City.
After her retirement, she returned to Cherokee and became a snowbird to Florida. In October, 1998 she became a permanent resident of Boynton Beach, Florida.
She commissioned and pinned her youngest granddaughter Rebecca Gates into the US Air Force in 2003. She pinned her great-granddaughter, Lexi Kohn, as an RN in 2013 – 70 years after receiving her own RN Degree.
She attended several St. Vincent Nursing class reunions. In 1988 at the age of 66, she went river rafting in Oregon with some of the nursing classmates. She hosted the last reunion in 2000 in Florida.
Over the years she arranged vacations with grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces, and nephews to Adventureland and the Ozarks. Her home was always open to any child. She enjoyed making the train cakes and doll cakes for birthdays. Her hobbies were gardening, shell crafts, bridge, dominoes and scrabble. In these last years she faithfully watched the Rosary, Mass and Chaplet of Divine Mercy on EWTN. She would get very upset when EWTN changed their schedule.
On June 21, 2018 Mary Fran passed away at her home at the age of 96. She was preceded in death by her parents, Delbert and Mary (Goodwin) Perrin; a son, Michael; four brothers, ‘Junebug’ (Delbert), Dana, Jack and ‘Bud’ (Boyd); a sister, Rosemary Roepke; sisters-in-law, Joyce Perrin, Rita Perrin, Lavonne ‘Tootie’ Perrin; brothers-in-law, Bob McGowan and Wayne Roepke.
She is survived by three children, Mary Beth Kohn of Boynton Beach, Florida; Cindy (David) Reedy of Austin, Texas; and Frank (Mary) Gates of Cedar Rapids, Nebraska; daughter-in-law, Vicky (Jerry) Menke of Cherokee, Iowa; one brother, Chuck (Dorothy) Perrin of Cherokee, Iowa; one sister Kathi McGowan of Lincoln, Nebraska; sisters-in-law, June Perrin of Cherokee, Iowa; and Barb Perrin of Cherokee, Iowa; nine grandchildren, Andy (Chaeli) Kohn of Sioux City, Iowa; Susan (Jeff) Whitney of Salix, Iowa; Stephen (Becky) Reedy of Austin, Texas; Amy (Steve) Brink of Boston, Massachusetts; ‘Hawkeye’ John (Maura) Gates of Grosse Point, Michigan; Dan (Jennifer) Gates of Grovetown, Georgia; Jared (Cindy) Menke of Carroll, Iowa; David (Kieko) Gates of Fukuoka, Japan; Rebecca Gates (Behrang Annabi) of Canberra, Australia; twenty-eight great grandchildren; four great-great grandchildren; numerous nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions be directed in memory of Mary Frances Perrin Gates to: Iowa Special Olympics, Inc., Attn: John Kliegl, 551 SE Dovetail Road, Grimes, Iowa, 50111 or to: Trinity Heights Queen of Peace, Attn: Terry Hegarty, P. O. Box 1701, Sioux City, Iowa, 51102.