Crystal Lake woman killed with husband in I-55 dust storm was competitive singer

Crystal Lake woman and her husband, Joseph, were killed in May 1 crash

Donna Bates was the director of the Prairie Echoes Chorus, a four-part a cappella group, from 2006 to 2016. She is pictured here shortly after taking on that role.

A long-time competitive singer, Donna Bates was set to compete at the Sweet Adelines regional competition in Milwaukee last weekend, just days after she and her husband were killed in a downstate Illinois crash.

Donna Bates, 71, and her husband Joseph Bates, 73, of Crystal Lake were among seven people killed in a massive pileup May 1 on Interstate 55 north of Farmersville, according to the Illinois State Police.

The crash – which involved 72 vehicles and injured more than 30 people – was caused by high winds blowing dirt from farm fields across the highway, leading to zero visibility, the agency said.

“Many of us wore a small ribbon on our lapels in her memory” during the Milwaukee event, Laurel Peterson of Waukesha, Wisconsin, said in a social media message to the Northwest Herald.

Peterson had known Donna Bates for 25 years through the women’s barbershop singing organization, according to her message.

She was well loved and respected by us all.”

—  Kristin Christian, HarmonEssence A Cappella Chorus team leader

According to the couple’s obituary, the Bates met at Bankers Life Casualty Insurance Company, which he joined after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1969 to 1971 and earning his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.

Donna Bates, who was born in Chicago, worked as a teacher’s assistant at North Elementary School in Crystal Lake for more than 20 years. She “began her singing career in 1969 with the Melodeers chorus of Sweet Adelines International and they went on to win multiple international competitions,” according to the obituary.

Donna Bates performed as part of a later group, the Melo-Edge quartet, on three international cruises, the Phil Donahue Show and a Toni Tennille special, and she was also a master director and an instructor for the Sweet Adeline International Organization.

According to previous Shaw News stories, she was director of the 15-member Prairie Echoes Chorus, now known as HarmonEssence A Cappella Chorus, based in DeKalb.

Bates was the chorus’s musical director from 2006 through 2016, current team leader Kristin Christian said in a message.

“She was well loved and respected by us all ... and she even told us she would always be here whenever we needed her in the future” after her departure, Christian wrote. “The first time we competed with a new director she even broke away from her preparations ... to watch and support us.”

Joseph Bates, originally from Princeton, Indiana, spent his career in the insurance industry, working as a certified public accountant, controller and vice president, according to the obituary.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help the family with funeral expenses. Any additional funds will be donated to the Cornet Club of Sweet Adelines International and the Gibson County Humane Society as a memorial, according to the online fundraising site.

“Joseph and Donna were beloved parents who dedicated their lives to their family and community,” the organizer said on the fundraising site. “They were always willing to lend a helping hand to those in need and were loved by all who knew them.”

The couple is survived by two daughters, Sarah Bates and Abbie K. Baer.