Mary Ellen Bates


The Washington Post Sunday - - OBITUARIES - — Emma Brown

Mary Ellen Bates, a math­e­ma­ti­cian and edi­tor for more than two decades at the agency now known as the Na­tional Aero­nau­tics and Space Ad­min­is­tra­tion, died Dec. 27 of con­ges­tive heart fail­ure at Inova Fair­fax Hos­pi­tal. She was 83.

In 1948, Mrs. Bates joined NASA’s pre­de­ces­sor, the Na­tional Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee for Aero­nau­tics, as a “com­puter” — a math­e­ma­ti­cian. In 1958, she be­came an edi­tor, charged with mak­ing dense tech­ni­cal pa­pers more read­able.

She re­tired in 1970 and worked as a free­lance edi­tor for about a decade.

Mary Ellen Von Kapff Wil­liams was born and raised in Bowie, where her fam­ily has deep roots. She grad­u­ated from the old Han­nah More Academy, an Epis­co­pal board­ing school for girls in Reis­ter­stown, Md.

She re­ceived a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in math in 1947 from Wil­son Col­lege in Cham­bers­burg, Pa.

Mrs. Bates and her hus­band built their home in the Lake Barcroft com­mu­nity of Fair­fax County in the early 1950s. She was a co-founder of the Lake Barcroft Woman’s Club and of Lake Barcroft’s Fourth of July pa­rade.

Her par­ents had owned farm­land in Bowie, and af­ter their deaths, Mrs. Bates con­tracted with a farmer to grow crops there. In re­turn, she was in­vited to pick as­many veg­eta­bles as she wanted.

Dur­ing the sum­mer months, Mrs. Bates and her fam­ily hauled corn and toma­toes from Bowie to their Lake Barcroft home, where they sold pro­duce from a farm­stand in the yard they called “Bates Bet­ter Veg­eta­bles.”

Mrs. Bates was a mem­ber of the For­est Gar­den Club in Prince Ge­orge’s County. She vol­un­teered with the Daugh­ters of the Amer­i­can Revo­lu­tion and the Colo­nial Dames and served as a do­cent at Gun­ston Hall near Lor­ton and at Dum­bar­ton House in Ge­orge­town.

She also vol­un­teered for the Repub­li­can Party in North­ern Vir­ginia.

Sur­vivors in­clude her hus­band of 61 years, Ge­orge Pierce Bates Jr. of Lake Barcroft; two sons, Ge­orge Pierce Bates III of Vi­enna and Camp­bell Ri­ley Chen­nault Bates of Katy, Tex.; and three grand­chil­dren.

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