We lost a good buddy and boatswain mate with the passing of Mike Almasy last week.
Mike and I came aboard around the same time in November 1966 when the ship, just out of the yards, brought on an almost new crew. We were both assigned to 1st Division where he and I were among the very few boots who didn't spend most of those first few weeks, seasick. Our division First-Class, "Jake" Jacobson, seemed to notice that and took Mike and I under his wing. Of the new crew, we were the first to be put up and pass the Seaman 1st, and Third Class exams.
During extended periods in port, Mike and I shared apartments (around $60 a month for a bachelor apartment shared by up to six shipmates) --- no cost was too much to get off the ship, or so we thought. We volunteered for Vietnam duty together and received our transfer orders within a few days of each other in November 1968 both for boat duty: Mike in Danang and me in Qui Nhon.
For a couple teenagers, those two years aboard the Gal were formative --- thousands of watches, holy stoning, chipping paint and ice, over ten thousand miles steamed, exotic port-o-calls, a consecutive forty-three days at sea during/following the Six Day War, and ... a few beers. Actually, our mutual liberty plan was always to go ashore, visit some local churches, have one beer, and return to the ship. We rarely visited any churches and never had just one beer.
Bindl & Almasy, Long Beach Apartment, 1968 with my foot
Mike and I pretty much lost contact until the 2010 Galveston Reunion in Memphis where all was resumed. And then again, until Pete Bindl (another 1st Div BM, buddy, roommate, Vietnam volunteer...) traveled, earlier this month, to spend time with Mike, one last time. Cancer had robbed Mike of his body, but not his mind. He could smile when I told him I brought him a beer, to watch me drink. He could even muster the strength to add a few words (corrections) to the sea stories Pete and I spun.
Mike's wife, Shirley, is an angel. She took the time to notify me of Mike's passing, when she could/should have been only concerned with her loss. She fed Pete and I when we were there -- when we all knew we should have been reducing her work load. And she argued with me when I told her I thought Mike was lucky ---until I clarified "to have had her in his life".
Shirley & Mike Almasy
I'm a better man for having known Mike and can only hope that someone will say the same thing about me someday.