Herbert Gates, recipient of what came to be known as "Meals on Feet," a network of generous neighbors who cooked him dinners so he could continue living at home, died Monday of cancer. He was 57.
Eight women from his Eldersburg neighborhood in Carroll County delivered home-cooked meals to his house for more than a year. They began after his wife, Carol, was diagnosed as having bone cancer. As she suffered through the final stages of her disease, Mr. Gates learned he had inoperable cancer.
Like his wife, who died at home, Mr. Gates wanted to stay in his house on Tamarack Circle as long as he could. Mainly because his neighbors brought him dinner five nights a week, he was able to until last Wednesday when he was transported to Stella Maris Hospice in Towson.
Sharon Hammond, who lives across the street, said Mr. Gates' leaving left a hole in the heart of the neighborhood. She said all the neighbors, including the children, crowded into his front yard when he was loaded into the ambulance.
"It was heartbreaking," Ms. Hammond said. "It was like something ended that we weren't really ready to end. "He wasn't here for us to take care of anymore."
Mr. Gates' daughter, Debbie Fox of Taylorsville in Carroll County, said he had become bedridden, lost his appetite and needed stronger pain medication.
Services will be held at 1 p.m. today at the Haight Funeral Home, on Route 32 in Eldersburg.
Mr. Gates had worked as a machinist at ASC Corp., in Owings Mills. Eight years ago he and his wife moved from Glen Burnie into the Village, then a new subdivision built on rolling farmland in Eldersburg.
Most of the other residents were first-time homeowners. The Gateses were older, and their neighbors adopted them as family.
When Mrs. Gates, a fine baker who gave hot rolls and bread to neighbors, became too sick to cook regularly, neighbors began making hot meals for her and her husband. That was more than a year ago.
At first they prepared two meals a week, then three, and finally, when Mrs. Gates died in September, they began delivering five a week to Mr. Gates.
In addition to Ms. Hammond, the women making the meals were Sharon Allia, Jocelyn Fowble, Colleen Glauser, Mary Harwood, Jodi O'Connell, Denise Snyder and Terry Tamburo. Ms. Hammond's husband, Sam, ran errands for Mr. Gates, took him to the store, shoveled snow, and helped in other ways.
"That's just the kind of people who live in this neighborhood," said Ms. Fox, Mr. Gates' daughter and primary care-giver. "I don't think most people realize there are actually people like this anymore."
Mr. Gates is survived by his mother, Irene Gates of Lashmeet, W.Va.; a daughter, Ms. Fox of Taylorsville, and a son, David Gates of Laurel; a sister, Hazel Thompson of Bluefield, W.Va., and a brother Luther Gates Jr. of Greer, S.C.; and two grandchildren, Derrick and Brandon Gates of Taylorsville.