June Francis Higdon Bates Passed away peacefully at Chaplaincy Hospice in Kennewick, surrounded by family. She was born to George Washington and Irma (Carrick) Higdon on June 9, 1922 in Felida, Washington, the first of three children. The family moved to Prosser in 1937, where she released 17 Oregon Gray Squirrels into the City Parks and claimed she was the one responsible for the squirrel population in Prosser. June attended Prosser High School where she served as Senior Class President, played on the basketball team and was May Princess.
You could say June was Renaissance woman as there wasn’t much she couldn’t do and had many accomplishments over her 97 years. She was a Marine, a seamstress, an artist, a beauty counselor, a decorator and remodeler, and collector of turquoise jewelry and antique furniture. Her favorite past times included reading, doing puzzles, dancing, playing cards and hosting card parties, and going to the casino and Old Time Fiddling. An excellent cook, she could throw a delicious meal together, even if the cupboard was practically bare. There were always cookies when her grandchildren dropped by. She also enjoyed being a hostess on casino bus trips, sponsored by Moffit Tours. She made sure all those on the bus had a good time by providing a movie, games and snacks. Good times were had when she hosted family gatherings at her home with all her children, grandchildren, nieces nephews and cousins in attendance.
After graduating from Prosser High School in 1941 June attended Business College until she decided that she did not want a job sitting behind a desk and also, when she typed, the keys would always stick together. She went to work for Boeing installing camera wells in B17 Bombers. When she heard the Marines were recruiting women, she was excited to join. She served basic training at Hunter’s College in New York City. She then went to Edenton, North Carolina for further training. Again, typing was not her forte so she was assigned to the College of Mortuary Science and was trained as a Gunnery Instructor for Twin 50 caliber machine guns in B24 Bombers. She became the first woman Marine aerial gunnery instructor. She was a true Patriot, proud to be an American and appreciative of all the opportunities given to her. A memorable time for June, escorted by her son, Keith, was going on the Honor Flight to Washington, DC and mingling with other Veterans. She was a bit concerned about how the country has become so divided.
June was an excellent seamstress. She started sewing at the age of three and became an accomplished seamstress. She made dresses for Miss Texas contestants, many brides and bridesmaids, cheerleaders along with special order dresses, clothing for her children and hundreds of aprons. Some she would sell some aprons at bazzars but most, she would give away. She made beautiful quilts out of scraps of material. Not the tiniest piece of cloth was thrown away. It could always be used for something, like making a potholder or patching a pair of jeans. While in the Marines she made swimsuits for the girls in her barracks out of parachute material. She also made Honor Quilts for Veterans.
June was an accomplished artist and her beautiful paintings hung throughout her house.
While living in Albuquerque, she went out on the Indian Reservation and made good friends, with the Navajo and Hopi people, especially the Patero family, who designed beautiful turquoise jewelry and she became one of their agents. She sold a lot of it on commission under the name, “With Reservations”, but there was so much she couldn’t part with and bought it for herself. You would never see June without being adorned with turquoise. June and the Patero family remained lifelong friends.
In her spare time, June was a beauty counselor. She would take her son, Roger, along when she did a makeover so he could tell the girls how pretty they looked. It helped her sales of the cosmetics.
Most of the homes she lived in over the years, as the family moved from state to state following Jack’s career with the government, were move in ready but once she got to Prosser she added her own personal touches, from knocking down walls to turning a shack into a beautiful home for her mother, later adding a great room, and master bedroom. Every home she lived in had her personal touches and was filled with beautiful antique furniture.
June is survived by her children, Roger Bates (Doris) of Prosser, Claudia Kravitz (Lee) of Haleiwa, Hawaii, Keith Bates of Englewood, Colorado, Jon Bates of Prosser, Tim Bates (Lisa) of Grandview, Texas and adopted daughter, Mary Jo Baroni and her daughter, Teresa Scott of Laverne, California; her grandchildren, Malia Jirova, Shelly Best, Alison Bunker (Chad), Michael Bates, Kent & Kailey Kravitz, Lindsey Lopez (Kenneth), Elizabeth Whitt (Phillip);
and great-grandchildren, Elise & Drew Bunker, Evelyn Whitt and Bogomil Jirov. She is also survived by numerous precious nieces, nephews and great nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by her parents, brother, John Higdon and sister, Norma Short & grandson-in-law, SSGT Marvin Best.
A Celebration of Life with full Military Honors will be held at 3:00 June 9, 2020, at the Prosser Senior Center when all of her children and grandchildren come back to town. It will include a potluck, music and perhaps a game of pinochle and cribbage. It will be posted again as the time nears. You may leave a message for the family at www.prosserfuneralhome.com