cates1By John D. Pierce

Dr. Robert M. (Bob) Cates of Rome, Ga., died yesterday (Dec. 28) from recently discovered pancreatic cancer. Our prayers are with his wife, Martha, and other family in grieving his loss.

For many hailing from this Northwest Georgia community Dr. Cates was the first person they ever met. He delivered a bunch of babies into the world and competently cared for women throughout his distinguished career in obstetrics and gynecology.

However, I got to know Bob and Martha during their retirement years — and quickly came to appreciate them as great friends.

In the Acts of the Apostles (10:38), Luke writes about the anointing of Jesus by the Spirit of God — and then speaks simply of Jesus as one “who went about doing good.” One might assume that all who claim to be followers of Jesus would be identified likewise, but that is not always the case.

However, the easiest way to track down Dr. Cates was to find where something good was being done — something that served a divine purpose in lives of others, especially those with struggles — and he would likely be found in the middle of it.

His gentle and caring heart and hands were engaged in a variety of “good-doing” in Floyd County, Ga., and beyond.

Bob was a faithful and supportive multi-term director and former vice chair of the independent, national board that guides our Nurturing Faith publishing ministry. And he was a strong advocate back home.

Some of you Romans and others are readers of Nurturing Faith Journal & Bible Studies and supporters of these efforts because Bob pestered you to do so.

At times Bob would ask me about the mechanics of our publishing ministry, then add: “I don’t know anything about how that’s done… but if you need someone to deliver a baby…”

Well, that medical need never arose but I did call Bob and Martha from the emergency room in Rome a few years ago when I fell on a slippery hill there and broke my wrist. Bob was very helpful in getting guidance from an orthopedist friend who advised me to return home for the surgery.

That night Bob and Martha welcomed me into their home as an unexpected guest where he administered pain meds and she made a tomato sandwich that brought equal comfort. My reflection on that experience is less on the foolish that led to my accident and the resulting pain, but more on the graciousness of these two friends.

The term “servant-leader” may have become something of a cliché. But it describes how one can provide influence through modeling and encouraging good, rather than demanding excellence of others from a distant point of authority.

The son of well-respected Baptist minister O.M. Cates, Bob was a servant-leader in the best understanding of that term — the kind of Christian whose life emulated the life and teachings of Jesus.

Bob was a faithful member of First Baptist Church of Rome, Ga. — as well as a dependable community volunteer. That’s why this congregation (and other organizations like the one I serve) often turned to Bob for his leadership and engagement.

Not surprising, Bob served on the pastor search committee that just brought Matt DuVall to the Rome pastorate. In this recent time of transition, the mission-engaged congregation — following several listening sessions — described its core values in terms such as “caring, integrity, friendliness, service, trust and inclusive.”

Those descriptions reinforce why Dr. Bob Cates was an integral part of this church family and the larger community. This dear man, whom so many of us loved, was accepting and inclusive of others, friendly and caring, trustworthy and honest, and always eager to serve others in the name of Christ.

And he always did so with gladness and joy — rooted in a delightful sense of humor.

As this year comes to an end, much is being made about the loss of so many widely known personalities from around the world. Dr. Bob Cates will not be listed among the celebrities who died in 2016. However, his generous life will be celebrated with love and gratitude by those blessed to experience his goodness.

It is always hard to let go of those who fill such needed space in our lives and our world. Words can never match our feelings.

Yet perhaps our best response to such gratitude and grief is found in that simple, ancient directive: Go about doing good.

Well done, Dr. Cates. Well done.


[The life of Dr. Robert M. Cates will be celebrated at 11am, Saturday, Dec. 31, at First Baptist Church of Rome, Ga., with visitation with family to follow. Memorial gifts may be made to First Baptist Church Foundation, the Davies Homeless Shelter in Rome, or to Baptists Today, Inc., the charitable organization of Nurturing Faith publishing, at P.O. Box 6318, Macon, GA, 31208-6318 or online.]

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