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June 22, 1940 — November 4, 2022

Donald Jay Gates passed away Friday, November 4, 2022, surrounded by his loving family in St. George, Utah. Donald “Don” was born on June 22, 1940 in Escalante, Utah to his wonderful parents Cummings and Golda Gates. Don was the eldest of five children and loved being the “big” brother. Shortly after he was born, his parents moved to Salt Lake City.

During Don’s early years, he attended Columbus Elementary School, Erring Middle School and would later graduate from South High School Class of 1958. Don really enjoyed summers spent in Escalante with his father and grandfather Hyrum. He helped the herd ride his favorite horse, Blackie.

In 1958 Don married Sharon Munson (later divorced). They had three beautiful children: Tamera Lee, Donald Ray and Linda Dea.

Shortly after his divorce, Don was drafted into the military and proudly served our country from 1964 to 1966. He reported to Fort Douglas and completed his basic education at Fort Polk, Louisiana. While enlisted, he had many duties. He was a member of the First Infantry Division, Big Red One. “If you have to be one, be a big RED!” He was assigned to shoot competition with the 1st Infantry Rifle Team where they placed in national events. Later the Vietnam War overruled these orders and he went to 3rd Company, Battalion Four, which had four squadrons. Don was a squad leader of 13 men. Of these, only three original men remained at the end of his tour. During his deployment, he would send home trinkets and neat gifts to his three children. They waited impatiently for these parcels.

After his Vietnam tour was over, he returned home and met Dawna Williams. The two married in 1966 (later divorced). Dawna had four sons from a previous relationship, Gary, Steven, Kent and Don. Don and Dawna decided to expand their family and had two boys, Paul Brian and Brett Ryan.

No longer in the military, Don started working for Bruce Transfer and Storage and joined the Teamsters Union. Real estate piqued Don’s interest so he decided to give it a try and that’s when he and Dawna founded Solar Realty. Having success in sales, he chose to leave Solar Realty and enter the automotive sector. Don was a car enthusiast who started young. His first car was a 1958 Chevy Impala convertible that he let his siblings drive from time to time and they thought it was cool. He has worked for several different dealerships over the years. After succeeding at Valley Ford, he was asked to move to St. George and help manage Stephen Wade Chevrolet. He loved the auto sales business so much that in 1992 he opened his own land, Gates Auto Sales. He was extraordinarily successful and ran the business with his two sons Brett and Paul. Don decided it was time to retire and sold the land in 2012.

On April 7, 1985, Don married the love of his life, Merlene. Merlene had three daughters from her previous relationship, Debbie, Teresa and Robyn. The two shared a beautiful home in St. George. Don and Merlene loved spending time together. They were both involved in the Elks Club and held high seats. They had many friends with whom they shared good times and great laughs over the years. Don walked by with his wife by his side.

In retirement, Don loved playing golf, whatever change he could get. He played many courses and was good too. He purchased land at the Star Valley Resort where he was a member of the Star Valley Golf Association. He spent his summers barbecuing and playing golf with friends he made there.

Don is survived by his wife, Merlene Gates; his siblings, Kenny (Judy) Gates, Roxanne (William) Leonard and Bruce (Debbie) Gates; his children Donald Ray (Terri) Gates, Tamera (Steve) Karsten, Paul (Emily) Gates and Brett (Jessamine) Gates; his stepchildren Gary Healey, Steven (Gloria) Healey, Kent Healey, Don Healey, Debbie O’Brian, Teresa (George) Gallegos, Robyn (Craig) Jackson; his 30 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren and his beloved dog Tiki.

Don is pursued in death by his parents Cummings and Golda Gates, his sister Sherilyn (Phillip) Gallo, his daughter Linda Gates and his son-in-law Cory O’Brien.

A celebration of life will be held at St. George Elks Lodge #1743, 630 W. 1250 North in St. George, at 10 a.m. on November 20.

Mary Cashion

The author Mary Cashion