There will be someone very important missing at the Benton Franklin Fair & Rodeo Grand Parade on Aug. 18.
Jim Bateman, who's been organizing the parade and its more than 100 entries for the past six years, died Tuesday of renal cancer at home in Richland. He was 65 and working as a senior quality engineer for URS and Bechtel.
For fun, he enjoyed going to old car shows and driving his Corvettes, but what Bateman loved was parades.
On Aug. 19, at the opening ceremony for this year's fair, he was to be honored as Volunteer of the Year for his decades of tireless work on the fair's parades and floats.
A tree will be planted on the fairgrounds in his honor, and a belt buckle Bateman was to receive for his award will be given to his family during the ceremony.
"This is a new award," said Lori Lancaster, fair manager. "We wanted to honor our volunteers who put in so much time and who are seldom recognized ... and Jim Bateman was the obvious choice."
Since 1989, Bateman has helped with Pasco's annual Fourth of July Parade and helped organize the International Cultural/Tri-Cities Water Torchlight parade in 1990 and Hanford's 50th anniversary Torchlight Parade in 1993.
When the Richland Chamber of Commerce wanted to build a parade float in 1998, Bateman's hands were all over it. He was the one who came up with the theme, "Times are Changing," to reflect the city's efforts to reduce its dependence on Hanford.
Bateman participated in the fair parade in the early 1970s, then convinced the fair board to move it from Pasco to Kennewick. He helped run the fair parade until moving to New Mexico in 1984. He helped build the fair float each year from 1977-83 and each weekend, from May through October, took it to various parades in Washington, Oregon, Montana and Canada.
When he returned to the Tri-Cities in 1986, he helped with the fair float and participated in the parade until 2007, when he took over organizing the annual event.
"Who else has spent three decades of their life on parades in our community?" asked Lancaster.
Bateman, a 1966 graduate of Kennewick High School, also helped run the first All-Class Reunion in 2000 and again in 2004.
Bateman was born in Pasco. He served in the Army before marrying his wife, Rita, on July 31, 1971, in the Richland Baptist Church.
"He was very grateful for all the friends he met," his wife said.
"And he was very appreciative of all the concern and caring these past few months after he was diagnosed with cancer in April," said his daughter, Kate Buffington of West Richland.
His son, Aaron Bateman, lives in Kennewick. He had three grandchildren.
Mueller's Tri-Cities Funeral Home in Kennewick is in charge of services which will be held on Aug. 4.