Essie B Jernigan-Kates was born on December 3, 1930, in DeBerry Texas to Elbert and Hallie Jernigan. Essie was always a kind and giving person, always putting other’s needs before her own. She helped her parents at a young age to take care of her young cousins when they lost their parents, and they are forever grateful. She had to leave her studies and started to work at age 15. She had an outstanding work ethic and she worked until the age of 85. Not because she had to but because she wanted to stay busy and continue to help others despite our efforts to ask her to come and spend time with us at our homes, which she did but not for long. She was back doing what she loved after a two week or so vacation away from home. She was famous for her Sunday dinners at granny Kates house. Even after her children were grown, she continued to prepare Sunday dinners for her family and anyone who happen to drop by. Essie married Andrew Dunn in 1946. To this union two children were born, Eddie and Fannie, and the marriage dissolved after three years. She moved to Lamesa, Texas in 1949. She met and married Wilson Kates, Sr., her soulmate in 1955. And to this union, six children were born. Wilson and Essie were part of a group called the “Spiritual Travelers in the 1950’s, when they cut a record deal and sang for sometime before they disband. The family moved to Amarillo, Texas, and joined Mt. Olive Baptist Church, under the pastorage of Rev. Vernon Spencer. Wilson served as Deacon and sang in the choir and Essie was in the Esther circle and also sang in the choir. She served as president of the hospitality/culinary committee and an officer of her Women’s united auxiliary group.
Essie always put her energy into her children, grandchildren, and the church where she served faithfully until her death. We could always see and hear her praying and being thankful for her family. She prides herself on gardening and you could see her early mornings in her yard, watering, pulling weeds, and planting flowers. She could tell you everything that was planted in her yard and when. We were raised with a huge apple tree in the front yard and every year, tons of apples would grow, and she would bake pies but most of all canned and made jelly. She loved her yard looking immaculate and made sure it was manicured weekly. We celebrated every Christmas together, traveling back home for our infamous family Christmas dinner where all of her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and family friends would gather for dinner preparing her favorite recipes all enjoying a great time, even the hotel staff.
You could hear her humming throughout the house as she prepared meals and prepared her table with a full set of dishes and silverware, with napkins as well. As she did her daily Saturday cleaning with changing linen to washing. She was always humming and going about her daily house chores.
Even years after some of her children had moved away, upon arrival home for a visit, you could count on her having a full course meal ready with her infamous chocolate cake. She would sit quietly in her favorite brown leather chair where she could see out of her front door and I know those are times where she would sit and talk to God about everything. And even trolling Facebook to see what her grandkids were up to and if it was something she did not approve of, they would get a call.
She was a strong woman of faith and a proud woman, who dressed to the nine’s whenever she went and especially to church, where she grew up with showing up in your Sunday’s best.
She leaves to cherish her legacy her children: Eddie Dunn of Amarillo, Texas, Fannie Frazier of Amarillo, Texas, Hallie Kates-Calloway of Mansfield, Texas, Wilma Bishop (Andre) of Kansas City, Mo., Barbara Johnson (Jay) of Amarillo, Texas, David Kates of Amarillo, Texas, Richard Kates (Pat) of Dallas, Texas. Her husband and son, Wilson Kates Sr. and Wilson Kates Jr. preceded her in death.
She also leaves to cherish her memories one brother, L.D. Jernigan (Dorothy) and two sisters, Louise Leary of Fargo, North Dakota, and Fannie Stenson of Dallas, Texas, 18 grandchildren, 24 great-grandchildren, 3 great-great-grandchildren, a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, and longtime friends.
She will be forever missed but always in our hearts. Her legacy will live on.
Services will be at 1:00 P.M., Saturday, November 28, 2020, at Mount Olive Baptist Church, 1015 N. Monroe. Burial will be at Llano Cemetery. Arrangements are by Boxwell Brothers Funeral Directors, 2800 Paramount Blvd.