The USS Edson docked on the Saginaw River near Bay City was quiet and mournful Friday without its beloved and respected leader at the helm.
Often referred to as “Chief” of the Edson, President Mike Kegley of the Saginaw Valley Naval Ship Museum died Wednesday, Sept. 3. The USS Edson Museum put a statement on social media about Kegley’s death late Wednesday.
“Our beloved Chief Kegley passed away today….We will never forget him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Mary, his children Michael and Debi, his sister Sue, and all of his family and loved ones.”
Museum Vice President Mike Buda said that Kegley’s death has hit the museum hard. Kegley was a fixture at the floating museum who Buda said was always ready to tell a story or work on a solution to a problem.
“He was the heart and soul of this whole organization. He looked after the ship and looked after the welfare of the people that were there. He was just an all around nice guy,” he said.
Museum staff have are left to figure out what to do next without Kegley.
“Mike ran the ship, he was the chief and he ran it like a chief. If you were in the service, especially in the Navy and you know how Navy chiefs operated – that was Mike,” Buda said.
Kegley was dedicated to preserving history and teaching it to the next generation through the USS Edson, a retired Vietnam-era destroyer that people can tour. Kegley often shared stories and lore of the ship and the men who served on it with visitors.
“Chief had a way of drawing everyone’s attention when he started telling stories. Even if you heard them 100 times, you always wanted to hear them again,” read the museum’s statement. “He worked tirelessly to bring the USS Edson to Bay City as a museum ship and devoted much of his life to making things happen at the museum over the last 23 years.”
Bangor Township Supervisor Glenn Rowley, who often frequented the museum, fondly recalled the tradition that he had with Kegley.
“One of my favorite things to do is I would open the door to the gift shop and in a very loud voice ’Chief, permission to come aboard; and he would always yell from the back, ‘Aye, aye, sir,’” recalled Rowley.
Kegley’s impact went beyond his beloved USS Edson, with local government officials expressing their condolences while recalling his dedication to the community.
“Mike was a dear friend and strong advocate for our veteran’s causes and devoted much of his later years to working with veterans issues and his great passion, the USS Edson,” said Bay County Executive Jim Barcia. “He wanted to make sure that people understood the history of our great nation’s conflicts and wars and the sacrifices that our veterans have made to preserve our American way of life and our freedom.”
“I would like to give my very best and well wishes to Mike’s family. I appreciate everything that Mike has done not only for Bangor Township but for the entire Bay Community. He was a great man, a great leader, and did amazing things. His work ethic went above and beyond,” he said.
According to Rowley, he once received a call from a concerned citizen about a veteran with mobility issues who had a tattered and torn American flag flying in his front yard. Rowley reached out to Kegley and explained the situation to him.
Kegley soon went with Rowley to the man’s house to present a special flag to replace the torn one.
“We went to this man’s house and met the neighbor there, the chief was able to secure a flag that was flown on a warship and even had a dedication plaque that said where it was flown, the ship and all the details with that,” said Rowley. “He also was able to get a hold of the Army recruiter and brought him out some Army swag and we had a flag dedication ceremony right there in the man’s driveway.”
Funeral and visitation arrangements for Kegley are pending.
Those who wish to do so are asked by the museum take a moment and share a memory of Kegley on the museum’s Facebook page.
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