Bill Gates bids farewell to his beloved father, 'the real Bill Gates'

The tech billionaire writes a poignant tribute to his dad, who was 94 and suffered from Alzheimer's disease.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
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Gael Cooper
2 min read

Bill Gates of Microsoft fame says one of his most treasured possessions is a letter his father wrote to him when he turned 50, calling the experience of raising Bill and his two sisters "incredible."


William H. Gates, the father of Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates , died on Monday, his son wrote in a poignant post on his GatesNotes blog. William Gates was 94. In 2018, Bill Gates revealed that his dad was suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

"My dad was the 'real' Bill Gates," his son wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. "He was everything I try to be and I will miss him every day."

Gates Sr. was a prominent Seattle attorney who influenced his son's business career, Gates Jr. said. Originally, the Microsoft co-founder went by William Gates III, but as his fame grew, he picked up the "Junior" suffix and his dad went by "Senior." Gates Jr. said his dad never used the name William H. Gates II, thinking it was "too stuffy."

"My sisters, Kristi and Libby, and I are very lucky to have been raised by our mom and dad," Gates Jr. wrote in his GatesNotes post. "They gave us constant encouragement and were always patient with us. I knew their love and support were unconditional, even when we clashed in my teenage years. I am sure that's one of the reasons why I felt comfortable taking some big risks when I was young, like leaving college to start Microsoft with Paul Allen. I knew they would be in my corner even if I failed."

Spoiler: Their son did not fail, and after the younger Gates left Microsoft as one of the world's richest men, Gates Sr. found a second career at age 70 working as co-chair of his son and daughter-in-law's Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

"The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation would not be what it is today without my dad," Gates Jr. wrote. "He was quick to tear up when he saw people suffering in the world. And he would not let any of us forget the people behind the strategies we were discussing."

Gates Sr. met his first wife, Mary, when the two were students at the University of Washington in Seattle, and and the two were married until her death in 1994. In 1996, Gates Sr. married Mimi Gardner Gates, former director of the Seattle Art Museum.

Gates Jr. says he worries that he, like his father, could develop Alzheimer's disease and has donated more than $100 million to help find a cure.