Hannah Bates’ father, Lionel Bates, center, looks upward after balloons in his late daughter's favorite colors were released Sunday at Sportsman Lake Park. (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)
CULLMAN – Employees of Marx Optical in Cullman gathered for a work picnic at Sportsman Lake Park Sunday afternoon where they honored their former co-worker, Hannah Bates. Bates, who was killed in an ATV crash at Stony Lonesome OHV Park in February 2018, would have celebrated her 22nd birthday on Sept. 21.
Christi Yarbrough, general manager of Cullman’s Marx Optical, said, “We were planning a work picnic, but we wanted to incorporate a memorial for Hannah. We decided to participate in a balloon request and people can write notes to Hannah that we will attach to the balloons. We have 45 balloons in her favorite colors: baby blue, pink and purple.
“Hannah was a one-of-a-kind employee. She was so full of life. Her spirit and light shined on everyone. She was an optician and frame specialist. Our customers loved Hannah and appreciated her honesty.”
Hannah’s parents, family, coworkers and close friends enjoyed a picnic before releasing the balloons with personal messages. Those gathered fought back tears as they sang “Happy Birthday” and embraced as the balloons slowly drifted into the sky. The picnic concluded with a birthday cake decorated in the same colors Hannah loved.
“Today was Hannah’s grandfather’s (Gene Bates’) birthday. My dad passes 12 years ago,” said Hannah Bates’ father, Lionel Bates. “We had plans. Hannah and I had great plans. She was our only daughter and we miss her so much. We are planning more events to honor Hannah. We are so proud of the Wallace State Scholarship Foundation-Hannah Bates (Hannah Bates Memorial Scholarship).”
For information about the scholarship or to make donations to the fund, visit www.wsccalumni.org/hannahbates or call 256-352-8144. Donations to the Hannah Bates Memorial Scholarship may also be mailed the Wallace State Future Foundation at P.O. Box 568, Hanceville, AL 35077.
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