Barbara Bellah Cates was born in Jersey City, New Jersey to Gertrude and Milton Bellah on July 15, 1942. As a toddler she and her parents moved to Savannah, GA where she was raised during her formative years.
At age 5, her sister, Charlotte arrived for her to torment throughout her childhood. Her sister would ultimately become her best friend: “I’m writing you a letter, my dear Barbara. I’m so glad we are sisters. The greatest present mom and dad ever gave us was the gift of having each other. I could write pages and pages of the life we had together growing up and growing old. Today, I just want to write about the love and respect I have for you. I feel so honored that after your retirement, you wanted to move here to Winchester and spend the remainder of your days close to me. I thank Adrian for honoring your wishes. On your final day on earth, the family was telling you it was alright to let go and be in peace. You know me, I’m your forever hard-headed sister. I wanted you to get up and just take a walk with me. Thankfully, you listened to the majority and took their advice. I hated for you to hurt and live the way you were. I know you didn’t want that either. I’m so sorry I had a hard time visiting with you after you go so sick. Hopefully you understand. Now, I’s time for you to join being with our spiritual family. Please look down on us and know that we love you; you are so very easy to love. When it’s my time to leave this beautiful world, it will be okay for you to whisper to me to get up and take a walk with you. I will do so gladly. When we are together again, we can laugh about all the craft projects we started and never finished. You had quite a few small lap afghans that, I think you were tired of working on, so you said that Adrian liked to throw a little something over his legs when they were chilly. Just like you, I have a closet filled with unfinished projects. It’s alright, it was fun doing what we did. Any project we did together was fine, because we did it together as sisters. So, now my sister, my friend, my hugger buddy, know you’ll be forever thought of and loved. See ya, Sister Sue, I love you. Until I see you again. SHALOM.
During her 20’s, Barb moved to Jacksonville where she met and married a man in the navy named, Adrian Cates: “I met Barbara after returning from Vietnam where my ship was stationed. She lived in an apartment with 3 other ladies, one that we have been in contact with the last several years. We dated for 3 months, and she thought I was properly trained, so we ran off with her sister, mother, and grandmother to Kingsland, GA and were married by a Justice of the Peace. We liked a lot of the same things such as sports car racing, ballet and classical music. For years, I thought she liked Jazz, but she said, no, she liked Broadway music the best. In time she liked my model railroading which became a business for me in the later years. Barbara was a very loving person to me and the kids, even though she made them find their own switch when they acted badly! I needed that as well, but she didn’t dole that out to me, even when I needed it. Despite having cancer several times over the last 40 years, she continued on like a trooper, never giving up. She fought hard over the years, and I will always love and remember her.”
Less than a year later they had their first child- Michelle Yvonne: “As mom’s first child, I have many fond memories of things we have done together. So, it’s no secret that I had a desire to work in the medical field since I was very young. I had always thought my medical interests came from watching the TV show, ‘Emergency’, but as I think more about it, I remember as a young child going with mom and the next-door neighbor- ‘chasing fire engines.’ From then on, I was hooked. My entire life, I was encouraged by mom to pursue my career in medicine. I’m so glad I listened to that advice because now I have been a nurse for 28 years. Mom and I had many similar interests. As a child, I took ballet- just like she did when she was young. Even though she continued in ballet for many years and even taught the younger children, I did not stick with dancing. Mom and I were great travel partners. Whether we traveled by car, train, plane or bus, we enjoyed our trips. We’ve been to Savannah to spend time with her sister, and many places as ‘chaperones’ for Mike’s band trips. We’ve been to Washington DC, Kings Dominion, Myrtle Beach, and even New York City where we were able to see ‘The Lion King’ on Broadway. Since mom and dad moved to Winchester, mom and I had many ‘food outings.’ She got to where she didn’t like/want to cook, so she would call and see if we were going out to dinner that night. During the day, she would get bored and tired of sitting in her chair, Dad would be in the basement working on his trains, and she would call me to come over to pick her up, so we could go get lunch. I remember a couple of times, after she got really sick, that I just wanted to put her in my car and take her out, but unfortunately, she was no longer able to go out. I am going to miss those times we spent together the most. We loved doing crafts together. We’ve had many different projects over the years. One of the first things we did together was crochet granny square Christmas stockings for our family- mom, dad, me, Ron, and Deb. They were so tacky looking, but we were proud of them because they were handmade by she and I. Mom had trouble understanding printed crochet instructions from pamphlets or books. She just didn’t understand the terminology. I would have to rewrite the instructions for her ‘in English,’ as she would say so she could work the pattern. I even made up a crochet (lap) blanket pattern that was easy for her to follow and understand. There are many lap blankets in their house and camper that she made, using that pattern. Mom and I, along with Charlotte had many crochet projects we did together as a threesome. We made hats and baby blankets for the babies in the NICU, where I worked at the time. Somewhere, I can’t remember where, I got a pattern for a crocheted octopus. We made so many octopi. They were all so cute and different, with the colors/patterns and how we did the face and body. We all got really creative with that one. We also tried our hand at making dishcloths, using cotton yarn. But we weren’t done there. We (the 3 of us) were going to make a granny square blanket. We made a lot of squares, but never put anything together. We had even though about combining all our squares into one blanket. I’m not sure what happened to that project. The last craft project we did together was to make jellyroll quilts using strips of fabric. That was a project that Debbie had started, and I loved. I decided we needed to make one too. Mom, Charlotte, and I all bought our fabric, and the quilting project was born. One weekend, Debbie and Maddy (and Jacob too) came to Winchester with their sewing machines. We all had our machines out on mom’s dining room table and the 5 of us worked on our current jellyroll quilt. I’m sorry that mom is not here with us any longer; I am really going to miss our times together.”
A couple years later, they had a second child, a son named Ronald Steven: “For such a petit person, Barb was larger than life. From the cold nights wrapped in the brown and yellow plaid blanket watching me play baseball, to emergency trips to the hospital in the middle of the night, to putting a hot meal in front of us, mom was always there for us.”
After moving from Richmond and back to Savannah, Barbara and Adrian had their third child- Debra Lynn: “Being the baby and a bit of an ‘oops’ made me a later in life baby, and almost like an only child at times. Mom was always there for me- even while juggling teenage children as well as me. For me, she was there from chaperoning band events, my dance recitals and anything else I was involved in. She always had an amazing meal for dinner, even after working all day long. When dad worked late, we would have a ‘do your own night’ for dinner, where she would throw something together and it would still be amazing. I have since adopted the ‘do your own night’ for my own family. She loved her family fiercely; she made my husband feel loved as if he were one of her own; and loved snuggling her grandbabies. She was a wonderful Nana to her grandchildren. For my kids, she always made time to come visit for dance recitals, ballet performances, baseball games, or whatever they were involved in. She always had a big smile for them, a big hug, and a positive remark. She was also known to tease them about what she was cooking for dinner; she would tell them she was cooking snails’ tails, frogs’ legs or fried worms, which would always elicit a laugh from my kiddos! I will continue to attempt to be as wonderful cook as she was, but let’s face it- no one cooks like their mama! Her love, smiles, hugs and laughter, not to mention her cooking will be forever missed by our family.”
Several years later the family moved back to Richmond, VA where she worked at a mortgage company and part time at the hospital caring for others. After she retired, she spent a lot of time helping Adrian with his hobby shop. Adrian remarked: “She would help out in the store during the Christmas seasons and on Saturdays and sometimes Sundays. She was very good with the customers and knew how to help them with their questions and purchases. We had a lot of fun working together at the store during the holiday season.”
During their retirement years, they moved to Winchester, VA to be closer to her sister, Charlotte and daughter, Michelle. With their free time, they were able to spend considerable time camping with family and friends.
She will truly be missed.
The funeral service was held at 4 o’clock Monday afternoon, October 24, 2022, at the graveside, Bonaventure Cemetery, conducted by Rabbi Robert W. Haas.