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34550 Highway 43
PO Box 635
Thomasville, AL 36784
Phone: 334-636-4456
Fax: 334-636-0056
About An Amazing Life|Help

Gregory Alan

June 8, 1961 – September 18, 2018

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Obituary for Gregory Alan Gates

Greg Gates of Linden, Alabama, will always be remembered by his family, friends, customers, and acquaintances for his radiant and ever-present joy-of-the-Lord smile, which rightly characterized him as a big-hearted, fun-loving, optimistic man of faith who always looked on the sunny side of life no matter the circumstances nor the approaching storm clouds. He was always looking for rainbows and silver linings as he danced in the rain and praised God in the storm. Greg was a member of Thomaston Baptist Church where he served as a deacon, Sunday school teacher, substitute teacher, Sunday school superintendent, and choir member.

Born Gregory Alan Gates on June 8, 1961, in Thomasville, Alabama, to W.G. and Inez Gates, Greg finished his race and crossed the finish line at the age of 57 on September 18, 2018, at his home with his wife Mitzi by his side. If his life had a soundtrack, the song that would have been playing during that final victory lap would have been one of his gospel favorites entitled “I Made It by God’s Amazing Grace” by The McKamey’s. Greg’s Southern Care Hospice Team of earthly angels who compassionately ministered God’s grace and love to him and Mitzi included Ashley Petrey, Sheila Adams, Laura Etheridge, Libby Hughes, Katrina Stapp, Tara Sealy, Shane Sprinkle, and Samantha Reese.

Greg is survived by his wife, Mitzi Forrester Gates of Linden, Alabama; his parents, Wallace Grady “W. G.” and Inez Lynn Gates of Nanafalia, Alabama; brother, Gary (Shelia) Gates of Vineland, Alabama; sister, Ursurla (Michael) Evans of Nanafalia, Alabama; brother, Todd (Lisa) Gates of Gallion, Alabama; and brother, Mike (Sandy) Gates of Lake City, Florida; niece Stacey Abunaemeh of Huntsville, Alabama; niece Tiffany (Lee) Stephens of Linden, Alabama; niece Alicia (Tim) Smotherman of Mobile, Alabama; niece Kerri Gates of Lake City, Florida; niece Kelli Gates of Lake City, Florida; nephew Michael (Melissa) Gates of Deatsville, Alabama; and nephew Kevin Gates of Nashville, Tennessee.

The middle child of five siblings, Greg grew up in Nanafalia, Alabama, where he and his family lived alongside neighbors Sam and Marguerite Barr, Alfred and Sue Barr (Gary and Nechia), and Alonzo and Sarah Barr. During his school years, Greg’s parents were very close friends with Willie and Diane Cabaniss and Larry and Bonita Townsend of Myrtlewood, and Greg and his siblings spent countless hours of fun with the Cabaniss girls Michelle, Monica, and Kimberly and the Townsend children Cindy, Susan, Debbie, and Larry, Jr., on the river and at each other’s houses. His siblings, as well as his childhood friends and classmates, remember Greg as always being kind to everyone, loving to make people laugh, and continuously having a bright smile on his face.

His nieces and nephews also remember his laughter and his smile, which from their perspective were the result of his mischievous nature rather than his kind heart. Greg had a penchant for “gently torturing” his beloved nieces and nephews by tickling them unmercifully or awakening them by snatching them up by the ankle and dangling them in mid-air until their screams of delight were on the verge of turning into tearful screams for mercy, Momma, and/or MawMaw. When he wasn’t “pleasantly terrorizing” his nieces and nephews, he was helping them make extra-special childhood memories that he enjoyed just as much as they did. One particular favorite childhood memory his nieces and nephews share is of their Uncle Greg loading them up in his car one winter morning to drive them through the rare Alabama snow to Moundville (where the weatherman promised the snow was thicker than it was Nanafalia) just so they could slide down the Indian mounds on homemade pasteboard box sleds, build a snowman, make snow angels, and have snowball fights. The photographs of this snowy adventure indicate that even though the children were obviously having the time of their lives in the snowy wonderland of this far away magical place called Moundville, the biggest child at heart was, perhaps, having the biggest time of all.

During his sophomore and junior years at Sweet Water High School, Greg played football for the Bulldogs, and he was on Coach Nolan Atkins’ 1978 State Championship Team. During the summer before his senior year, Greg decided that ending his high school football career on such a high note was a wise decision, so he looked for and found a summer job. When he began working at the Butler Piggly Wiggly as a senior in high school he certainly did not realize that his part-time job would become a career in the grocery business that would span 39 years. Over the course of the next 26 years, he worked his way up from stock boy and bagger to assistant manager to store manager, a position he held in Butler for the last six years of his tenure there.

He joined the Papa’s Foods Family in 2005, where he was the grocery manager for 13 years. The consummate professional grocer who had only worked for “a company store” that sometimes seemed to value man-hour production and store profits over personal service, Greg took great pride in joining a family-owned and operated grocery store that he knew had been the heart and hub of Linden and the surrounding communities for many years due to the Owensby and Echols family business values of providing personal service, top quality products, competitive prices, and a popular meeting place for friends and neighbors as they gathered groceries to feed their families. Greg found Papa’s shoppers to be very warm and welcoming, and they found him to be the grocery man with “aisles of smiles,” which saved him more than once when he seemed to be the meddling new employee responsible for rearranging the grocery stock so that his warm and welcoming Papa’s shoppers couldn’t find anything anymore. (He was only taking orders on the store resets, he could have explained, but he would flash that radiant smile as he said, “C’mon! I’ll show you right where it is now” and swiftly and surely led the shopper to the correct aisle.) Greg, his Papa’s bosses, and his Papa’s co-workers were a close-knit special kind of family, and Greg relished playing the role that he was so well-trained for: the happy, kind-hearted, always smiling, very often laughing, nickname giving, incessantly picking and teasing, sometimes hard-headed, mischievous brother/uncle figure.

Anyone who isn’t sure how to best honor Greg’s memory might find the following suggestions from his wife Mitzi to be helpful, suggestions that she will be following herself in honoring his memory:
*SMILE often. Not everyone is capable of beaming a genuine joy-of-the-Lord smile 24/7/365 like Greg was, and that joy-of-the-Lord smile cannot be faked (especially if you’ve never trusted on Jesus as your savior). But everyone can smile. Just try it once in a while. If you’re having a good day, alert your face. If you’re having a bad day, smile anyway. Genuine smiles are contagious, you know? If you’re ever having trouble working up a real smile, this thought might help. I have a picture that I treasure of my five Texas cousins and me (Tex’s nieces and nephews, as you probably surmised). Greg was the photographer. He didn’t ask us to say cheese. He was too clever for that, and he wanted to see BIG SMILES on all our faces. He needed something that would get guaranteed results. So with a BIG SMILE on his face and LAUGHTER in his voice, he said, “All right! Y’all show what teeth ya got!” in his best Nanafalia accent. Nailed it! Best. Picture. Ever. Yep! He had quite the sales pitch! If you want an even better reason to smile, read Proverbs 15:13-15, Proverbs 15:30, Psalm 16:11, Psalm 33:21, and Psalm 34:5.

*Choose HAPPINESS and JOY every day. Spread that stuff around like confetti! Have you ever seen a bird with a french fry? That’s an image of sheer happiness and pure joy, and Greg Gates chose to be as happy and joyful as a bird with a french fry every hour of every day. Yep! It’s a choice. And that whole smiling thing will help in making the right choice when you’re shopping for your mood in the morning. Singing “Happy! Happy! Joy! Joy!” Ren and Stimpy style won’t hurt. But it’s no guarantee; that’s for sure! Happiness and joy are rooted in God’s love. What will really help is reading Galatians 5:22-23, I John 4:16, Romans 15:13, Proverbs 17:22, James 1:2-4, Matthew 5:12, Isaiah 35:10, Psalm 27:6, Nehemiah 8:10, Romans 15:13, and Philippians 4:4.

*Be CONTENT. What a beautiful word “content” is! And what a beautiful life it produces. We don’t hear that word used on a regular basis, and when it is used, it seems to have a somewhat negative connotation. Think about what it means to be content. It is positive characteristic that doesn’t come naturally. Don’t Google it. Bible it, instead. Read Philippians 4:11. I’m pretty sure Greg read it. (A lot.) I’m definitely sure he lived it. (A lot. Hard. Intentionally.) The whole smiling, joyful, contented thing he had going on was pretty much a package deal. Yep! Three for the price of one! Can’t you just see our Papa’s grocery guy making and hanging that fluorescent neon orange sign pointing out the special deal of the day?!

*Be POSITIVE or be quiet. Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Optimists see the donut. Pessimists see the hole. I have a poster in my classroom with that clever observation on it. (Greg thought it was pretty cute -- icing, sprinkles, and all! But he also pointed out to me that there was nothing negative or pessimistic about donut holes because “them thangs are delicious!” He had a way of pointing out the obvious, and just remembering that makes me smile!) But I digress. The donut poster is, of course, a spin on the more familiar observation that optimists see the glass as half full, but pessimists see the same glass as half empty. Here is what I know about Greg as it relates to that proverbial glass. His glass was twice as large as mine, and that thing was always overflowing. He was constantly drinking in positive and pouring out positive. His super-sized glass was continuously overflowing with Living water, he carried his glass everywhere he went, and he was spilling out positive in between sips all the time. Greg lived by the old adage that wisely advises “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Remember Truvy’s twisted all-in-fun revamping of that old adage in the movie Steel Magnolias? She wryly says, “If you don’t have something nice to say about somebody, sit by me.” That movie pre-dates Facebook, which, for all the good it can do, is often the electronic embodiment of that sassy Steel Magnolias quote. Have mercy! CLEAN UP ON AISLE ONE! There’s enough darkness in the world. Be a light in the darkness by being positive out loud or simply being quiet. Have an optimistic outlook on life because of Whose you are, and the darkness will be chased away. Read Philippians 4:8, Matthew 12:33, Matthew 15:11, Ephesians 4:31-32, Proverbs 4:23, John 16:33, Romans 8:28, and Luke 6:31.

*Do something fun and adventurous on a Tuesday! Greg’s day off was Tuesday. Drive off on a Tuesday. Do your chores early in the morning before you go, and take the scenic route to your desired destination. Go to a picture show right by yourself. Take yourself out to eat. It really doesn’t matter where you go or what you do. Just spend a little time alone or with someone you love on a Tuesday doing something out of the ordinary but simple, and enjoy the journey. September 18, 2018, was a Tuesday. Oh, what a glorious journey he took that day! Read John 3:16, Colossians 3:1-4, John 14:1-4, and Isaiah 25: 8-9.

*Shop Papa’s every chance you get. Papa’s will always be filled with AISLES OF SMILES provided by the entire Papa’s Foods Family! They love serving our community by stocking the store with the finest groceries, meats, fruits, vegetables, dairy items, dry goods, frozen foods, confectionary delights, and a vast selection of BLUE BELL ICE CREAM! They have a shopping cart that will fit your needs whether large or small. And the Papa’s Foods Family will always provide service with a smile as they bag your groceries, tote ‘em out, and load ‘em in your vehicle. What other grocery store offers that courtesy? We are BLESSED! Papa’s is a SPECIAL PLACE because of the SPECIAL PEOPLE who make up the PAPA’S FOODS FAMILY. Thank you, PAPA’S FOODS FAMILY and PAPA’S SHOPPERS! You meant more than you will ever know to Greg Gates, the grocery man with aisles of smiles who was a PROUD MEMBER OF THE PAPA’S FOODS FAMILY for 13 WONDERFUL YEARS. And you mean more than you could possibly know to me! I’ll be seeing you at Papa’s! ATTENTION, PAPA’S SHOPPERS! HUGS, SMILES, AND LAUGHTER ON AISLES 1-10 and IN THE CHECKOUT LINE! (But please stick to business at the Western Union counter. That Papa’s service takes careful concentration.) Read I Thessalonians 5:11, Philippians 1:3-11, Hebrews 10:24-25, Proverbs 17:17, Proverbs 27:9, Romans 14:19, Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10, and Colossians 3:12-15.


Funeral services were held at Thomaston Baptist Church on Friday, September 21, 2018 at 9:00 AM with Rev. David Traywick and Rev. Micah Gandy officiating. Burial followed at Thomaston Cemetery in Thomaston, AL.

Active Pallbearers were: Rick Ward, David Gaddy, Billy Powell, John Gibbs,
Timothy Thurman, Marcus West, Butch King.

Honorary Pallbearers were: The Deacons of Thomaston Baptist Church and
The Employees of Papa’s Foods

Condolences may be offered at

Arrangements by O’Bryant Chapel Funeral Home in Linden, AL.

To send flowers to the family of Gregory Alan Gates, please visit our Heartfelt Sympathies Store.



When Thursday, September 20th, 2018 6:00pm - 8:00pm
O'Bryant Chapel Funeral Home
400 West Cahaba Avenue
Linden, AL
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Service Information

Friday, September 21st, 2018 9:00am
Thomaston Baptist Church
Main Street
Thomaston, AL

Interment Information

Thomaston Cemetery
County Road 53
Thomaston, AL