BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Relatives, friends, and colleagues gathered at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church on Friday to bid farewell to longtime WAFB news anchor and investigative reporter Paul Gates.
Gates died on Tuesday, after a courageous battle with Alzheimer's disease.
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Reverend Cleo Milano described Paul as a true Baton Rouge legend, a protector of family and friends, and a caring man who gave a voice to strangers who otherwise may have sat silent.
"A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter, and he who finds one finds a treasure. Paul Gates was indeed such a treasure," Rev. Milano said.
Gates was a treasure to many, especially to those who knew him best. His wife of 33 years, Michele, and this three children. His son, Marshall, delivered an uplifting tribute. He began the way he believed his dad would, by asking questions.
"Raise your hand if Paul Gates ever made you smile? Raise your hand if Paul Gates ever fed you or fixed you a drink? Raise your hand if Paul Gates ever did you a favor or ever helped you out of jail," Marshall Gates asked.
Paul Gates came to Baton Rouge nearly 40 years ago by way of Monroe, where his son recalled a news director discovered his good looks and appreciation for storytelling.
"It was just this love of literature that took him beyond the oilfields and chicken coops of LaSalle Parish and lead him to the anchor desk on Government Street," Gates said.
Chef John Folse, who shared the spotlight with Paul during cooking segments on 9News at 5, was moved by the message.
"It was one of the most beautiful services I had ever been to. He was a close friend. We were like brothers. We did over 1,000 television shows together. It was a fitting tribute for a great guy who Baton Rouge loves," Folse said.
WAFB became Paul's new permanent home in 1977. His work as an investigative reporter was recognized on and off the television screen. However, it was his gentle, caring nature, the way he used his talents to help others, that truly made him special.
"He was the guy that Baton Rouge said, 'that guy could be my neighbor.' Paul delivered all of himself on camera, and that made him unique," said WAFB Chief Meteorologist Jay Grymes.
Sometimes that would mean injecting humor at just the right moment. Gates' journey may be complete, but on this day mourners were reminded, his love for life and others has left a permanent mark.
"That funny, kind, witty, thoughtful, zany, intelligent, entertaining friend of ours is still with us," Gates said.
Paul Gates was 69 years old.