By Donald Wittkowski
Of all the tributes that were showered Wednesday on Ocean City business owner Lynne Cates, the most emotional and poignant one came from her husband of 27 years.
Fighting back tears, Dave Cates told the audience that Lynne serves as the family anchor for him and their daughters, Dana, 21, and Tara, 20, and son, Gregory, 18.
“She’s just a rock,” he said. “She’s always there for us.”
Lynne Cates was honored Wednesday not only for her skills as a wife and mother, but also for her business acumen as the owner of the Sun Seekers boutique on Asbury Avenue in Ocean City’s downtown shopping district.
She was named Working Woman of the Year during the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce’s “Salute to Working Women” gala at the Ocean City Yacht Club.
Special presentations were also made by the Chamber to Ocean City Superintendent of Schools Kathleen Taylor, Ocean City High School American Sign Language Teacher Amy T. Andersen and Ocean City High School student Nora Faverzani,
Taylor is New Jersey’s reigning 2018 Superintendent of the Year, while Andersen holds the title of New Jersey’s Teacher of the Year for 2017-2018. Faverzani, a high school junior and Student Council president, serves as a student representative on the State Board of Education for 2018.
Cates, meanwhile, was honored for her devotion to her family, her business and the community. Speakers said Cates has skillfully balanced the demands of being a businesswoman with her responsibilities as a mother and wife.
“There are three words that come to mind when thinking of Lynne: love, grace and kindness,” said Michele Gillian, the Chamber’s executive director.
In similar comments, Cates’ husband added, “If you had to describe Lynne, it’s pure kindness.”
Gillian recalled how Cates rebuilt Sun Seekers after it was virtually destroyed by flooding from Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. Just six months later, Cates had the upscale boutique reopened, elevating it in such a way that safeguards it from floodwaters in the future.
Gillian called Sun Seekers “the model” for how all of the downtown businesses should protect themselves from coastal flooding.
Cates, 53, has owned Sun Seekers since 1993. Her husband said the shop reflects her love for Ocean City.
“She loves Ocean City. She loves the community. We made a great choice coming down here 25 years ago and starting a business,” he said.
Dave Cates, 56, also owns an Ocean City business, the Piccini restaurant and pizzeria on 13th Street and West Avenue.
Among her honors Wednesday, Lynne Cates also received special presentations from Mayor Jay Gillian and Cape May County Freeholder E. Marie Hayes.
Addressing the audience of 120 people, Cates praised her husband and children, her employees and the community. She called her husband her “cheerleader and fan.” She also said that her children are “amazing” and that her dedicated employees treat her business as though it is their own.
“I love what I’m doing,” she said. “I love our town.”
Billy McMahon, a former Chamber president who served as emcee of Wednesday’s gala, called Cates, Taylor, Andersen and Faverzani key leaders who are influencing Ocean City’s schools and business sector.
During her remarks, Taylor recalled the demands of her personal and professional life while she was raising her four children. She urged the audience, particularly the women, to always believe in themselves as they chart a course to the future.
“Listen, follow and believe in your instincts. They’re always right, whether they’re in your professional or personal life,” Taylor said.
Andersen, who has two sons, told the audience that she remains extremely proud of her role as a working mother. She noted that her love and devotion to her children have helped fuel her passion for teaching.
“It’s one connected way to live,” she said.