Russell Neil Gates passed away July 22, 2019, in Upland, Calif., after a brief illness.
Neil, as he was known to everyone, was born in Newton, Ks on March 5, 1939 to his parents Russell and Eva Gates. He joined his older brothers Sid and Keith at the family home in Wichita, Ks. A few years later the family moved to a farm near Cassoday, Ks. They lived close to their Aunt & Uncle, Forest and Sarah Plummer and their family: Ben, Kay, Al, and June and enjoyed all the fun and mischief that young kids could get into living out in the country. When Neil was 8 years old the family moved to a home on S.W. 4th Street in Newton. Neil attended Washington Grade School and then Newton High School where he played football on the varsity team until a broken collar bone sidelined him. After High School Neil joined the Air Force in 1957 and served his four years as fire rescue at Clovis, AFB in New Mexico.
After his discharge from the Air Force in 1961 Neil returned to the family home in Newton on S. E. 6th Street. He worked in Wichita for KG&E. Neil & Hazel Wilson, also from Newton, were married in April 1962. After a short residence in Wichita they moved to Ontario, Ca in June of 1962. Neil worked in Construction building new homes for several years before going to work for Hooker Headers fabricating exhaust systems for all types of Race cars. He readily advanced to Senior Design Engineer at Hooker Headers. Neil’s love of racing included owning a Top Fuel Dragster in 1965 that ran at the famous Fontana Drag Strip in California. While with Hooker he ran the Baja 500 and 1000 races in a custom built Corvair powered Dune Buggy. His long experience with all parts of an engine made him a valuable member of the design team at Hooker Headers. Neil built the custom headers for Richard Petty and his famous Dodge Daytona Car #44.
After thirteen years at Hooker Headers Neil left there to form his own company, Gates Products, in Upland California. He set up his shop there to manufacture the oak & chrome frames for the tops on hot rods specializing in Ford Phaeton models. His products were second to none and always in high demand.
In 1987 Neil moved to San Juan Capistrano, Calif., close to Dana Point where his sister, Nancy and her husband John were living. Neil went to work for Yamaha Research & Development in 1988 in Cypress, CA. While there Neil worked on many water recreation products and even built a Proto-type Motorhome for the Japanese market. After shipping it and Neil to Japan for testing Yamaha shelved the project and it was never seen again. Neil retired from Yamaha in 2002. After retirement Neil enjoyed spending time with his many friends and family. Neil loved the ocean and hanging out at beautiful Dana Point Harbor. Neil never met a stranger and never said “No” to anyone in need of help with anything. Neil was the best son, brother, father, uncle and friend that anyone could ever hope to have. We will all miss him so very much but we find comfort in knowing that Neil is with our Lord and Savior for all Eternity.
Neil is survived by two Brothers, Sid Gates of Denve and Keith Gates of Elsinore, Ca., who passed away a month after Neil and one Sister, Nancy Baumann and her husband John of Hot Springs Village, Arkansas. He and Hazel White shared three beautiful daughters: Shellie Kolbrek of Bakersfield, Ca, Shannon Hager of Cucamonga, Ca and Leslie Rudolph of Alta Loma, Ca. Neil also leaves six grandchildren; Chris, Cameron, Britney, Brandon, Nichole and Matt and two great-grandchildren; Madison and Harrison with loving memories of their “Papa”.
There will be a joint Memorial Service for Neil and his brother Keith at Petersen Funeral Home in Newton at 11:00AM on Friday October 18, 2019.