Leadership Cartoon: Bill Bates Update

Russ Volckmann

Bill Bates seems to be in a recovery process, but he is still in Intensive Care. Below is a recent report on him. Please continue your healing energy for Bill.

Thanks, Russ

From the Monterey Herald:

COMMUNITY TREASURE: Carmel rallies for cartoonist Bill Bates
Herald Staff Writer
Article Last Updated: 10/08/2008 01:32:03 AM PDT

Bill BatesBill Bates, left, hangs up his prints in the Carmel Post Office, with…(ORVILLE MYERS/The Herald)

When friends asked the community to pray for Bill Bates, they were genuinely stunned to discover how expansive his community really is. Response flooded in from all over the world in support of the Carmel cartoonist, a two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee whose adventurous spirit has taken him to 133 countries in a life that has spanned almost eight decades.

“I believe the prayers have made an incredible difference,” said one of those friends, Carmel psychologist David Loye. “Frankly, things were looking very grim at one point. His doctors seemed to be at the end of their rope, not knowing what more they could do to help him, but we’re seeing signs of improvement now and I think all that healing energy is a big part of the reason.”

The 78-year-old Bates, whose work has regularly appeared in The Herald, has had a rough time since July 1. A heart attack put him in the intensive care unit at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, where doctors opened his arteries with stents.

The prognosis was good until a staph infection attacked and damaged his lungs, and a subsequent viral infection created additional complications. As of this week, Bates remains in Community Hospital’s ICU, where a respirator helps him breathe.

His wife of 18 years, Lei Lei, sits with him every day and into the night, often alongside their 16-year-old daughter, Chelsea, an honor student at York School.

Friends and acquaintances have rallied around him. Bob Phillips, the celebrated jazz pianist, hauled his keyboard through the maze of hallways in the ICU and set it up in a corner of Bates’ hospital room. Linda Jardine did the same with her harp. Both stop in regularly to play for him.

Bishop Richard Garcia of the Archdiocese of Monterey paid a bedside visit. Paul Miller, editor and publisher of the Carmel Pine Cone, continues to send paychecks for cartoons Bates has been unable to draw. A group of organizers, led by family friend Bruna Odello, is planning a benefit event, “Wine, Wit & Wonder,” to raise funds for his family.

Friends say the response to Bates’ plight has been overwhelming, but probably isn’t surprising, considering who he is.

“Bill has responded with kindness to just about any person or organization that has needed a boost,” said Odello, who is Chelsea’s godmother. “Bill is a guy who will give you one of his cartoon books. He’ll give you two. He gives them away until he doesn’t have any more to give, then he has to publish more, which costs him a lot of money. He’s never had a business manager, and he has always needed one because of his generosity.”

Bates’ father died at a young age, leaving the boy to be reared mostly by his grandmother. After high school, he joined the military, then spent years traveling the world with a cruise line, sketching caricatures of passengers.

It was during those years that he made friends all over the world, and sketched some of the most exotic ports on Earth— work he published in 23 books. Twenty years ago, at one of those island venues, he also met Lei Lei, whom he married two years later.

He became a cartoonist for the Pine Cone in 1972 and evolved into a Carmel icon. Seventeen of his cartoons hang in the town’s post office, and a multitude of others were published in books he called, “Carmel-By-The-Bates” and “San Francisco, The City By The Bates.”

“How is he? Honestly, I think he’s a bit depressed. This illness has dragged on for so long— it’s going on four months that he’s been in the hospital,” said Loye, a friend of more than 10 years. “But he still has that twinkle in his eyes. He’ll give us a big smile when we tell him jokes.

“we’re optimistic that he’s going to keep getting better, particularly with so many people supporting him with their prayers and well wishes.”

Dennis Taylor can be reached at or 646-4344.Benefit for Bill Bates What: “Wine, Wit & Wonder!” a fundraiser to benefit the family of well-known Carmel cartoonist Bill Bates. The event will feature live entertainment, wine and hors d’oeuvres, and a silent action, featuring artwork from well-known local artists. Co-sponsored by Friends of Bill Bates and the Carmel Art Association. When: 2 to 5 p.m. Oct. 26. Where: Crespi Hall, behind the Carmel Mission, Rio Road at Lasuen Drive. Donations will be accepted at the door. Information: Contact Bruna Odello at 624-2246. Donation checks should be made out to Friends of Bill Bates and mailed to P.O. Box 146, Carmel 93921.