History & Staff

We have years of experience caring for families, from all walks of life. Each family comes to us because they know we are leaders in our profession, dedicated to excellence in service, and have the highest integrity.

Our History

Our funeral home dates back to April, 1950, when the business was established as the Newman Funeral Home by Oskaloosa native John C. Newman. After serving his country during World War II, John attended the old Hohenschuh-Carpenter College of Embalming in St. Louis, Missouri. Intent on owning and operating his own funeral home in Oskaloosa, he purchased the stately, colonial style residence at the corner of South 7th Street and First Avenue East in Oskaloosa, and converted it into a funeral home.

Through the years, as the business grew and the facility was enlarged by additions, Mr. Newman was joined, in 1973, in the operation of the business by Joseph F. Bates. Mr. Bates is a 1971 graduate of Westmar College, LeMars, Iowa, and a graduate of the Kentucky School of Mortuary Science in Louisville, Kentucky, and became a partner in the funeral home in 1977.

In February, 1979, John Newman died very suddenly of a heart attack, and the reins of the business were taken up by Joe Bates, assisted by his wife, Carol Bates. In 1981, the Bates' became the sole owners of the business, intent to maintain the high standards of excellence established through the years, while building the business on the foundation of the past.

Through the 1980's, Joe and Carol Bates continued to operate the Newman Funeral Chapel, while becoming very active members within the community through various civic organizations. In addition to local organizations, the funeral home is a member of the National Funeral Directors Association and the Iowa Funeral Directors Association, and been recognized for service excellence from those professional groups. On July 1, 1990, the name of the funeral business was officially changed from Newman Funeral Chapel to Bates Funeral Chapel. The new name was the only change. The Bates' continued operating the funeral home from the original, centrally located site, 114 South 7th Street, as has been the case in it's nearly 70 year history.

In June, 1998, the former Powers Funeral Home of Oskaloosa merged business operations with the Bates Funeral Chapel. The Powers facility (302 First Avenue East) was closed, and all business dealings and all records and files were transferred to the Bates facility, and the combined business operates under the name of the Bates Funeral Chapel, and remains locally owned and operated.

Michael Sytsma returned to the funeral chapel in March, 2001, after graduating from Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science, and completed his internship under the preceptorship of Joe Bates, and is a licensed funeral director in 2002.  In 2008, Mike became a partner in the funeral home.  In 2010, Joe and Carol entered semi-retirement and Mike became the owner of the business.    

In May, 2003, the funeral chapel received the Service Business of the Year award for 2002 from the Oskaloosa Area Chamber and Development Group.

The staff of the Bates Funeral Chapel includes Mike Sytsma, Joe Bates, Matt Sytsma, Larry Boyer, Vicki Latcham, and Emma Curry.

Our Valued Staff

Michael L. Sytsma

Michael L. Sytsma, CFSP

Mike graduated from Oskaloosa Senior High School in 1998, and attended Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa. Mike graduated cum laude from the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science in Cincinnati, Ohio in March of 2001; became a licensed Funeral Director in 2002. Mike and his wife Stacey along with their children, Dawson and Addison, reside in Oskaloosa. Mike is a member of Rotary, Elks, Eagles, American Legion and is also a member of the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice. Mike is a member of the Central Reformed Church in Oskaloosa. He gives talks to church and school groups, and is a member of the Iowa Funeral Directors Association, the Funeral Services of Iowa Board, and the National Funeral Directors Association.

Matthew J. Sytsma

Matthew J. Sytsma, Funeral Director

Matt graduated from Oskaloosa Senior High School in 2004 and attended Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa. Matt graduated from the DMACC Mortuary Science Program in 2011 and has been licensed since 2012. Matt is a member of the Elks Lodge, the South-Central Iowa Bass Club and the IFDA. He has been a lifelong resident of Oskaloosa where he resides with his girlfriend Amanda and their children, daughter Evelyn and son, Finn.

Joseph F. Bates

Joseph F. Bates, CFSP, CPC

A 1971 graduate of Westmar College in LeMars, Iowa, and a graduate of the Kentucky School of Mortuary Science in Louisville, Kentucky, Joe has been a licensed funeral director since 1973. He is a member of the National Funeral Directors Association and a member and Past President of the Iowa Funeral Directors Association, as well as many Oskaloosa clubs and organizations, including Past President of the Oskaloosa Kiwanis Club and Past Grand Knight of the local Knights of Columbus. He is recognized as a Certified Funeral Service Practitioner (CFSP) by the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice, and has also attained the Certified Preplanning Consultant (CPC) designation from the Funeral Service Educational Foundation. He, too, has presented many in-service training programs to nursing homes and hospice staff and volunteers, as well as conducting tours for church, school, and other interested organizations. Joe semi-retired in 2010 and is now Of Counsel.

Larry Boyer

Larry Boyer, Funeral Director

Larry is a part time Funeral Director. Larry graduated from Oskaloosa High School in 1962 and attended Northeast Missouri State Teachers College (now Truman State University) of Kirksville, Missouri. He then attended and graduated for Dallas Institute of Gupton Jones College of Mortuary Science in Dallas, Texas in Spring of 1967. Larry was awarded his 50 years of service pin from the Iowa State Funeral Directors Association in 2017. He retired from Hamilton Funeral Home of Des Moines in 2003 and together with his wife Sue, returned to Oskaloosa at that time. They are parents of three children; Ryan of Minneapolis, Minnesota; Barbara of Fairfax, Iowa; and Pastor Steve Heinsen of Sandpoint, Idaho. Larry and Sue reside in Keomah Village, where he serves as a member of the City Council. He also serves on the board of Mahaska County Solid Waste Agency. Larry and Sue are members of St. John Lutheran Church of Oskaloosa. While Larry is a retired funeral director, he often assists in arrangements, conducting of funeral services and meeting needs of families in their difficult times of the loss of a loved one.

Carol I.  Bates

Carol I. Bates

Carol was the rock upon which Bates Funeral Chapel built its reputation for integrity, dignity, and respect for all life. Carol died July 11, 2010, but her legacy and our continued commitment to her values moves us forward, inspired by her dignity, grace, and professionalism. We shall never forget her, nor her dedication to our funeral chapel and community.Eternal rest, grant unto her, O Lord.

Mellissa Zuber

Mellissa Zuber, Pre-Planning Consultant

Emma Curry

Emma Curry, Mortuary Student

Emma is currently a full-time student at Des Moines Area Community College. She is majoring in a science transfer degree while she works at Bates. Emma will begin Mortuary School in the Fall of 2024. In her spare time, she liked to read, spending time outside, and being with friends and family. She has a chocolate lab, Mollie.

Vicki Latcham

Vicki Latcham, Office Manager

Vicki has been working at the chapel since November, 2021. Vicki is grateful to have the opportunity to assist families and help make the arrangement process easier. Vicki lives in Grinnell, Iowa and has a daughter, Lacie, who currently is living in St. Paul, Minnesota. She has recently adopted two kittens, Liberty and Abigail, and is an advocate for all animals. She loves to go to flea markets, antique malls and auctions, as collecting mid-century treasures is her passion.