Larry Wayne Gates, 1939-2020

Larry Wayne Gates, 80, of Bargersville, Ind. passed away Wednesday, June 24, 2020 at his residence.

He was born Oct. 14, 1939 on the farm of his loving maternal grandparents, Alva and Minnie Surface, near Stones Crossing, Ind. He was the oldest of three children of Walter, Jr. and Lorene (Surface) Gates.  He graduated from Mooresville High School in 1957, where he was senior class president, drum major, and janitor. His first real job was in the personnel department of Citizens Gas & Coke Utility. A few years later the company provided him with a part-time job so he could attend Indiana Central College (now University of Indianapolis) where he received his BS degree. Following graduation, he taught school in Johnson County, including one year teaching a classroom of 52 sixth graders at Nineveh, Ind.

After four years he left teaching and was employed by Bargersville State Bank, where he shortly became president. During that time he earned his MBA from University of Wisconsin – Madison. After a number of years with the bank, Larry left to become vice-president of finance and administrative assistant for Dr. Robert Schuller (Hour of Power) in Garden Grove, Cal., and was responsible for raising a majority of the funds for the construction of the famous Crystal Cathedral.

Returning to banking, Larry moved to the presidency and board chairmanship of the LaPorte Savings Bank in northern Indiana, where he authored the book “Dwelling In Schullerland.” Also while in LaPorte, he purchased LaPorte county’s  largest real estate firm and four other county firms, forming “Fairfield of America” realtors and establishing a school, “Gates School of Real Estate.” During this time he also purchased the Morocco (Ind.) State Bank. Ultimately, he was recruited by the FDIC as managing agent, supervising the closing of nearly 60 savings and loans in Indiana and four surrounding states during the 1979-1982 savings and loan crisis.

Upon completion of this project for the FDIC, Larry was unemployed, so he and a super friend investment banker started a new bank, First Community Bank & Trust, in his hometown of Bargersville. He was always grateful to the many friends and community members who became customers, as well as purchased stock, and made this bank a success.

In a few years the bank was acquired by MainSource Bank (now First Financial) and he was once more out of work. Recalling his love for the farm, he and his life partner purchased a farm near Providence, Ind. where they produced cattle, hay, and far more fun than profit. After 10 years they sold the farm and moved to his home in Bargersville, which had recently been vacated by the death of his mother. At this time he was privileged to help many people as director of Preneed and general assistant to an old family friend, Scott Swartz, as Scott and Mary established their new mortuary in Franklin, Ind.

At age 79 Larry ran for and successfully won a four-year term to the Bargersville Town Council. Larry had previously been elected to the school board of trustees of Center Grove Community School Corporation; trustee advisory board of Union Township (Johnson County); president of Indiana School Boards Association; chairman of Indiana Teacher Education Commission; and several non-profit boards of directors and service clubs.

He was a member of Bargersville First Christian Church where he had been choir director for a number of years. Lately he had attended the church of his youth, Mt. Auburn United Methodist Church.

Larry enjoyed spending time with his family, friends, and co-workers; traveling the U.S. with his husband; antique cars and tractors; playing hymns and sacred music on his organ and piano; and collecting 16mm films and projectors.

Larry is survived by his life partner of 34 years, Cliff Gardner, to whom he was married in southern California in 2013. Cliff was always supportive in every endeavor and was loved more than life itself.

Also surviving are sisters Bonnie Kerkhof of Cambridge City, Ind. and Judith (Tom) Thuerbach of Mission Viejo, Cal.; step-siblings (who were always considered blood siblings) Ruthann Kelly of Greenwood, Ind. and James and (Luann) Featherston of West Lafayette, Ind.; and several nieces and nephews.

Predeceasing him were his grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, and several cousins.

A private entombment will take place at Forest Lawn Memory Gardens in Greenwood, Ind. A celebration of life will be forthcoming.  Memorial Contributions may be made to the Humane Society of Johnson County 3827 North Graham Road Franklin, IN 46131,  or at

Swartz Family Community Mortuary and Memorial Center 300 South U.S. 31 (Morton Street) Franklin, Ind. (317-738-0202), is handling the arrangements.

Messages of condolence may be posted below on WNLP as well as at

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