Tate, motivated by faith, maintained summer camp
A celebration of the life of JA Tate will be held 2 p.m. Friday at the Presbyterian Church. The longtime Rainbow Glacier church camp maintenance man died Friday, May 9 at his home, among family. He was 87 and had cancer.
Tate and his family came to Haines in 1982 after he retired from a 30-year career at Southern California Edison as a power plant chemical technician. Tate first saw Haines in 1966 on vacation with his wife Charline and their three children. The Tates took month-long road trips in a Volkswagen bus every other year. "J always said that what he liked best about traveling was the time with the kids," Charline said.
Their first summer at the camp, Tate learned about off-grid power and water systems, tried to grow corn, and marveled at the calving glaciers, shore birds and sea life. He enjoyed the setting and the Christian focus.
"Dad was motivated by faith," said daughter Lucy Tate.
"J's job was to keep the camp operational on a shoestring. He kept it running for 25 years. Without the Tates the camp never would have survived. It was a gift of love. Charline cooked and J ran everything else on a pittance," said Presbyterian Pastor Ron Horn.
The family spent the summer and winter in Haines that first year and another 10 years working seasonally at the camp, which was never far from Tate's thoughts. "One year he decided we needed a swing set, so he spent the winter in California inspecting every school playground," and then built one here, Charline said.
They moved to Mosquito Lake, where they spent winters until 2001. Tate retired from the camp in 2006. Neighbor Carol Clifton gave both Tates art lessons for 19 years. "J painted a lot of local mountains; he liked animals, too. He was up for anything, he took it seriously, but he loved to laugh. He was kind, gentle, and a good, sweet man," Clifton said.
Tate also took piano lessons and was a dog lover and amateur photographer. He served in the leadership of the Haines Presbyterian Church and sang in the choir.
JA Tate was born Nov. 23, 1926 in Panhandle, Texas to Roy, a clerk, and Alene Wilson Tate, a teacher. He was the oldest of four children. During World War II, the family moved to Southern California, where Roy worked in the defense industry. Tate graduated from Gardena High in January 1945 and joined the Navy. He served as a storekeeper in the Philippines until the war ended a few months later.
Stateside, Tate attended Compton Junior College. He met Charline Dora at a dance hall, and they married in the Gardena Presbyterian Church on June 22, 1952. She fell for him when he fixed a flat tire. "He didn't cuss or scream. I don't like conflict. J never did lose his temper or get angry," she said. They settled in Crestline, Calif., where Tate's life revolved around family, church, and work.
He kept fit chopping wood, gardening, and cycling 32 miles to the power plant and back. "He had a flashlight taped to the handle bars with electrical tape," son Leo said. Tate served on the Crestline Presbyterian Church session and sang tenor in the choir. "I think he was involved in everything other than giving the sermon," Leo said.
Haines Presbyterian Associate Pastor Crystal Badgley said he will be missed. "J would always answer the phone 'Praise the Lord.' I don't know anybody who answers their phone like that, do you?"
In addition to Charline, Tate leaves children Lucy Tate of Haines, Leo Tate of Gardnerville, Nev. and Priscilla Mund of Lead, S.D., and grandchildren Dustin and Shane Mund.
Donations in his memory may be made to Hospice of Haines, P.O. Box 1034, Haines, AK 99827.