Community remembers Warren’s ‘cheerleader’ Eleanor Bates

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published October 19, 2023

 Eleanor Bates, a former Van Dyke Public Schools school board member who for decades served on different committees in the city of Warren and was once a City Council member, died Oct. 14. She was 96.

Eleanor Bates, a former Van Dyke Public Schools school board member who for decades served on different committees in the city of Warren and was once a City Council member, died Oct. 14. She was 96.

File photo by Patricia O'Blenes

WARREN — When Piper Bognar began working as McKinley Elementary School principal in 2010, Van Dyke Public Schools Board of Education member Eleanor Bates was there to welcome her.

“She was so sweet,” said Bognar, now the district’s superintendent. “She was such a caring person.”

Bates, a former Van Dyke Public Schools school board member who for decades served on different committees in the city of Warren and was once a City Council member, died Oct. 14. She was 96.

“What a huge loss. It’s very sad. She represented our district so well,” Bognar said. “She just loved being part of the community. She took great pride in Van Dyke and the city of Warren. She made such an impact on everyone.”

Last year on Nov. 30, Bognar was among the school officials and district families who gathered at Lincoln Elementary School when the school’s media center was dedicated to Bates. Several of Bates’ family members, including her children and sister, also were in attendance. Bates’ maiden name was Puzzuoli.

In October 2022, the school board voted to name the Lincoln Elementary media center the Eleanor Bates Media Center in recognition of all she did for the district. She was first elected to the school board in 2005 and served for 17 years. Last year, she decided not to run for public office again to spend more time with her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“Van Dyke has always been very important in our lives. Our social life revolved around high school,” Bates said at last year’s dedication. “The good Lord has blessed me.”

Bognar was in constant contact with Bates over the last 13 years. One trait that Bognar admired was how Bates never forgot a face.

“She remembered everyone,” Bognar said. “She would remember students from Lincoln High School 20 years later.”

If anyone had a history question about the district, they’d call Bates, who kept historical newsletters, books and photos in her archive.


‘She was a very happy person’
Eleanor Puzzuoli had a strong presence in Van Dyke Public Schools dating all the way back to when she was a student. Growing up on Studebaker Avenue in Warren, she attended Lincoln Elementary and Lincoln Junior High School. When at Lincoln High School, the popular student was voted the homecoming queen. She graduated in January 1946.

Mary Lou Martin grew up a few blocks away from the Puzzuoli family.

“Our families were friends. When I was in junior high Eleanor was in high school. She got a majorette group started,” Martin said. “There’s nothing but good things to say about Eleanor. She was active in school. She was a very happy person.”

After high school, Puzzuoli married Ted Bates, who served as the mayor of Warren for many years. Together, they raised five children who all went through Van Dyke. The couple eventually divorced, but Bates continued volunteering in the city.

“When Ted was the mayor there were fundraising parties I did attend,” Martin recalled.

Martin and Bates shared a common bond. Both worked as school secretaries in the district. They crossed paths again when they volunteered with the Lincoln High School Alumni Association, which organized alumni dances for about 70 years. At first, the annual dances were a chance for graduates to meet up and reminisce about their school days, but eventually the association members began raising money to provide scholarships for graduating seniors.

Known for her positive attitude and warm smile, Bates could always be counted on to get things done. She volunteered on countless committees, including the Warren Beautification Commission, various parent-teacher associations and the Van Dyke Foundation for Educational Excellence. Music also was very important to her as she helped promote the Warren Symphony Orchestra and the Warren Concert Band.

In 1967, when Ted Bates was elected Warren mayor, Bates was by his side. Current Mayor James Fouts described her as “the No. 1 cheerleader for Warren.”

“I would call her the first lady of Warren. She was like Eleanor Roosevelt. She was always trying to do what she could to help her husband and the city,” Fouts said. “This was a phenomenal woman and such a genuinely good person.”

While volunteering was her calling, so was politics. She unsuccessfully ran for treasurer three times in the 1980s, but did serve one term on the City Council from 1991 to 1995 alongside Fouts.

“She wanted to be a peacemaker. She didn’t want to see people fighting,” Fouts said. “She was a kind, thoughtful person who wanted people to get along for the betterment of the community. She always wanted to do the right thing.”

Since August 2000, Bates had been an election worker in the city. Warren’s primary Aug. 8 was the last election she worked.

“Everyone feels pretty sad,” Fouts said of her passing. “She was well-liked and well-respected, courteous and soft-spoken.”


‘I feel I lost a longtime friend’
Steve Bieda, a 37th District Court judge in Warren, got to know Bates in 1976 when she and his mother, Joan, volunteered their time working at a temporary souvenir shop set up at Warren City Hall to celebrate the country’s 200th birthday during a series of United States Bicentennial events.

“Her passion for public service was admirable. She was so willing to give of herself over the years. She contributed so much. I can’t think of a time she wasn’t involved with anything,” Bieda said. “She touched so many lives across the generational divide. I feel I lost a longtime friend.”

Bieda, a former state senator and state representative, ran into Bates quite often as they both served their respective offices.

“What a true public servant in the community,” Bieda said. “A great person and a wonderful lady.”

An obituary was posted at According to the website, the devoted wife, mother and grandmother had a passion for cooking and baking, was quite the bowler, liked to try her luck on the penny slots at the casino, always flew an American flag from her front porch and attended church weekly.