Tony Cates passed peacefully with his family by his side at the First Health Hospice in Pinehurst on Wednesday, January 30, 2019. Tony was larger than life with the greatest sense of humor and while he was always the life of the party, he was a consummate professional throughout his  career in education. He will be remembered for his love of family, friends, the beach, and warm sunshine. Tony maintained his positive outlook and fought cancer with courage and strength throughout his treatment.

Born June 6, 1950, in Smithfield, NC, to the late John Louis Cates and Gladys Adell Eason Cates, Tony knew education was his ticket to explore the world and to provide a wonderful life for his family. He served in the the US Air Force upon graduating from Selma High School where he played basketball, baseball and track and was voted Friendliest Boy in his class. Tony attended East Carolina University, receiving his undergraduate and masters degrees and his six-year education administration degree.

Tony married his high school sweetheart, Gloria Culbreth on March 3, 1972, and the two began developing careers, parenting, creating lifelong friendships, and eventually traveling the world together. Tony and Gloria lead an adventurous life, having just returned from the Caribbean several days before he passed.

Tony had a rewarding 30-year career, first teaching at NC State, and then serving as a principal in numerous school districts throughout North Carolina.  The impact he made on fellow educators and students was evident throughout his life. Upon retiring from the state, he finalized his career at St. Andrews University, where he and Gloria took a group of students abroad to study in Italy.

Tony loved warm weather and discovered that cruising was his favorite way to vacation. His family and friends will remember him spending countless hours on the beach soaking up the sun and planning his winter escapes, as no one disliked being cold as much as Tony.

Tony loved being a husband, father and grandfather. He was a civic and social contributor to his community, serving on numerous boards, and was recognized as Farmville Citizen of the Year. He was a loyal friend who had a smile and a hug ready for everyone. Tony never met a stranger. He loved joking with his golf buddies, dancing to beach music, and tinkering with new technology.

Tony is survived by his wife of 46 years, Gloria; his sons Dustin (Shirl) and Shaun (Ashley); his granddaughter Sophie and grand dog Logan; siblings Waylon, Mildred, Pat, Jean, and Bucky, and numerous nieces and nephews; mother-in-law Dorthy Culbreth; sisters-in-law Gayle and Carol, and niece and nephew. Tony is proceeded in death by brothers Bobby and Jesse and sister Diane.

The family would like to extend their gratitude to the caring staff at First Health Hospice, the oncology departments at Duke University and First Health, and friends and family who continually offered prayers and positive words of love and support.

A celebration of Tony’s life will be held on Saturday, February 9 at Boles Funeral Home, 425 West Pennsylvania Ave. in Southern Pines. The family will receive friends at 1pm, and the ceremony will follow immediately after at 2pm.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations to the American Cancer Research Foundation, 8300 Health Park, Ste. 10, Raleigh, NC 27615. 

Online condolences may be made at

Services entrusted to Boles Funeral Home of Southern Pines.

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