Archived Story

Gates appreciates renewed ties to Fergus Falls

Published 7:09am Monday, August 13, 2012 Updated 12:11pm Monday, August 13, 2012

Dave Gates, a 1961 graduate of Fergus Falls High School, is like many FFHS grads who lived for several years in another community. In retirement they find themselves back in their hometown.

Helping to renew ties between Gates and fellow classmates who live in this area is Sylvia Hoff Robson, also a 1961 FFHS graduate.

Gates, due to physical limitations, resides at Pioneer Care in Fergus Falls.

Fifty-two years ago this month, Gates and Larry Mathison, Robson’s husband, were members of the Fergus Falls Otter football team preparing for the traditional Labor Day evening game against the Pelican Rapids Vikings. Gates was a senior and Mathison was a junior on the squad, coached by Rocky Elton.

After high school, each went their separate ways. Mathison became a physician and Gates, after spending a few years working for a telephone company, ran a mobile home park for many years in Wyoming, Minn., northeast of St. Paul.

Fast forward to 2012 and their friendship has been renewed. Mathison, a lakes area retiree, praises the efforts of his wife, Sylvia, to rconnect Gates with people in this area.

“Not many classmates from our era know that Dave is back in Fergus, and it’s great to have him close by and share some special memories,” said Mathison.

Mathison, treasurer of the Fergus Falls Elks Club, took Gates to Elks Point at Wall Lake during a recent outing.

“The town (Fergus Falls) has changed so much since we were in high school,” said Gates. “But that’s the way it should be. Times change and people change. You can’t live in the past. It’s time to support new generations.”

In 1960, Otter football players were heroes to many of us who were in grade school and junior high. Gates, Mathison, Barry Johnson, Loren Kern, Dick Werner and other players were held in as high esteem as Minnesota Gopher football players such as Sandy Stephens and Bobby Bell.

Gates was a lineman for the Otters and Mathison was a running back for coach Elton. After World War II, starting in the late 1940s, Fergus Falls played Pelican Rapids Labor Day evenings, alternating home and away games.

Joe Gates, Dave’s older brother who was in the class of 1959, also was a lineman for Elton. He’s retired after working for city government in Arizona.

The brothers were in the Boy Scout program under the leadership of Fergus Falls attorney Tom Donoho in the late 1950s and 1960s. I looked up to them in our scout troop, sponsored by the Catholic Church Knight of Columbus.

“Tom was a great guy,” said Gates. “He not only was a good scout leader but also had a great sense of humor.”

Gates played Otter hockey for Rollie Lake. It was a sport he loved, playing adult hockey past the age of 50. He also remembers the years when he worked summers for a farmer at Foxhome, hauling hay on flatbed trailers all the way to St. Paul.

Gates, after graduating from FFHS in 1961, attended what was then Fergus Falls Junior College (now M State – Fergus Falls).

Then it was on to the Twin Cities where he worked for a telephone company.

“I was an air specialist, looking over splices and checking for air leaks for three years,” said Gates. “Eventually, I got tired of opening up manholes.”

He met his future wife, Karen, a resident of Forest Lake. Gates attended college in White Bear Lake. Later, while Karen taught English, Dave operated his mobile home park with 70 lots. Karen died in 2010.

These days, at Pioneer Care, he proudly displays Duck Stamps that are part of a collection. He did a lot of hunting and fishing over the years and also enjoyed photography.

He’s watched the Olympic events on television the past several days.

“What I enjoy most about Olympic competition is the teamwork and unselfishness of the participants,” said Gates.

These days he also cherishes living close to his daughter, Susan, in Moorhead, son Jason in the Twin Cities and seeing his three grandchildren.


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