Despite a significant snow fall the night before and frigid temperatures of around 15 degrees, well wishers, admirers and friends of Mr. Junius Green joined with family to pay their respects.
Services for Mr. Gaten took place Friday Dec. 9, at St. John Church-Baptist, 4821 S. Michigan. The Rev. Rickey Freeman officiated. The Austin Weekly News first featured Mr. Gaten a year ago December, again during his 105th birthday party and the last during a Juneteeth Celebration where he was Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn’s special guest.
WVON’s Purvis Spann and one of Mr. Gaten’s favorite women broadcasters Pam Morris were in attendance. His lovely wife Vera, an admirer of Gaten’s, represented Cong. Danny Davis.
Gregory Davenport, Theodore Drew, Jon Daye (WVON) and Delores McCain made remarks.
“I met him when I was 16 years old through his niece Francis Gaten,” recalled Davenport. “He knew everyone. He was here before TV, riots and many communications we take for granted. He was here when we were called ‘colored’ and he was always young. And he was the truth.”
Drew has known Mr. Gaten for more than 60 years
“At the time Gaten came into the world we were demonized, 100 years of being demonized because of the color of your hue,” said Drew. “He called me boss and I called him big boss. We would argue about everything, and sometimes it would take forever to explain a point. Gaten never tried to enrich himself, but he always served his community. He was a prince of a man. The judgment of a man or woman when they passed away is to ask if the world was richer? Gaten was a respected elder of our community and we all are richer for having him in our lives.”
Daye, host of WVON’s nightly program ‘On Target’ referred to Mr. Gaten as his co-host. His nightly greeting to Daye was “how you doing Buddy?” Daye has often remarked that whenever Mr. Gaten called, the red lights of callers on hold would go off. Everyone wanted to hear what Mr. Gaten had to say.
He didn’t want me to call him Mr. Gaten. I was just his buddy. He loved music, but was especially fond of jazz and was always telling me what record he wanted me to play. My visits to his home were always fun and a history lesson. He was my special buddy and I certainly will miss his calls.
Junius Gaten was born on Feb. 28, 1900, in the small town of Smithdale just outside of McComb City, Ms. When Mr. Gaten was 5 years old his aunts Alma and Mary brought him to Chicago. He lived here until his death on Wednesday, Nov. 30.
Often referred to as “Red,” Gaten’s memory and keen awareness was with until the end. I had talked with him on the phone the day before he passed away, and told him I would be out that week to see him. “Ok he said, I’ll look for you.”
Although Mr. Gaten had been a longtime member of St. John Church he often visited his neighbor and dear friend Jill Bradley’s Lawndale Community Church at 3827 W. Ogden Ave. Because of this special friendship the Lawndale Community Hope House Choir, under the leadership of Stanley Ratliff, came and did a musical selection.
The choir consists of all young men who have or are in the process of turning their lives around from various things, mostly drugs.
After their selection, the minister reflected, “these are the kind of young men Junius Gaten would be interested in helping.”
His longtime friend and block club member Mrs. Eugene Love read a resolution. The block club hosted a birthday party for Mr. Gaten every year. Eugene Love is a realtor in the Bronzeville community along with friend John Lawson. The two men often picked Mr. Gaten up, took him to doctor appointments, hospitals and helped with his daily needs.
Like everyone else I too will miss Mr. Gaten and the wisdom he imparted. Part of my short statement at the podium was, “they say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them but then an entire life to remember them.”
Rev. Freeman’s eulogy began with scripture from Acts: Verse 22. Rev Freeman talked about the Apostle Paul who sat at the feet of a great teacher.
“Here today we who have sat at the feet of Junius Gaten drew from his vast knowledge of history,” Freeman said. “He remembered names and dates with clarity. He reminds me of the West African griots, they have remarkable memories. (Widely popularized by Alex Haley’s narrative ‘Roots,’ griots are best known for their oral history, genealogy and musical performances).
Freeman went on to say, “he was lively with a big voice and curious spirit. He loved music, especially jazz, he was social and spiritual, a walking repository of our history. It is often said when a griot dies a library burns down to the ground. We thank God for his life and his journey. He was concerned about our youth and his legacy live on. The world has been made richer because of Gaten, thank you for his realness and the wisdom of his lives experiences.”
Repast immediately followed the services. Burial took place at Restvale Cemetery. His niece Francis Gaten was in charge of arrangements and she along with other family members I’m sure made Junius Gaten proud of the home going services.