Mary Ellen Bates
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.