CAMP ZAMA, Japan – Kevin McGovern first met his future wife, Armie, in Yokohama after a mutual friend introduced them, sparking what would turn into 20 years of marriage.
From their encounter, Armie recalled that she knew Kevin was interested in her, yet she initially wanted to take her time before pursuing a serious relationship.
But Kevin’s cheerful demeanor, and the sacrifices he made for her along the way, made her realize he was the real deal.
“He was the best thing to ever happen in my life,” she said. “He was a great father; he was a great husband. I will never forget him. He’s always in my heart.”
Armie and her family joined several community members for a memorial service Wednesday at the Camp Zama Chapel to celebrate Kevin’s life following his death from natural causes on Sunday. He was 66.
The dedication Kevin showed to Armie and his five children also extended to his work life.
After graduating high school in 1975, Kevin enlisted in the Navy to serve in aviation ordnance. He retired after 21 years of service and moved to Florida where he received a certification in culinary arts.
Kevin used his new skills at several resorts and country clubs before returning to Japan, where he was previously stationed, to be the chef at the Atsugi Enlisted Club. He later worked for the Defense Commissary Agency and then became a cook for Child and Youth Services, or CYS, at Camp Zama.
He also was active with the Veterans of Foreign Wars post here, where he continued to make an impact with other veterans in the area, said Col. Marcus Hunter, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Japan.
“I am struck by the exemplary commitment and performance of Kevin,” the colonel said. “He had such a positive attitude and was infused with joy in everything he did and … made everything fun for all who knew him.”
Hunter said Kevin’s legacy will endure through the lives he touched from both his family and many others in the community.
“I will say Kevin will be missed,” he said, “but his spirit lingers in our hearts and, as such, is a true testament to a life well lived.”
Loretta Murray, the CYS coordinator, said Kevin brought so much happiness to the children as he nourished their lives with the meals he served.
When Kevin interviewed for the job four years ago, Murray remembered that he showed his true self to the hiring panel.
“He said, ‘If you hire me, I’m going to be the cook that’s singing, dancing, hanging with the kids and having a party,’” she said. “And that’s what he did. Mr. Kevin was the life of the party.”
Murray said he also displayed that liveliness outside of work as she often saw him and his wife mingling at the VFW or singing karaoke at the Firelight Lounge.
“I will miss his positive energy and attitude, but I am wishing the family the [best] through these trying times,” she said. “We are here to support you all, because while Kevin was part of our CYS family, his family is part of our family as well.”
Kevin’s eldest daughter, Shannon Nease, said she was thankful for the Camp Zama community coming together to honor her father.
“To know my pops was to love him,” she said. “Our very own ‘Mr. Popular’ that was not bothered by others’ opinions or thoughts. He was an amazing father and loved all of us so, so much.”
Nease then spoke of having the opportunity to see her father one last time. She had just arrived at Tokyo Narita Airport from Florida when she got a call from her family to rush to the hospital.
It was the longest bus ride in her life, she said, as she hurried to the hospital to say goodbye to her father.
“My dad waited for me,” she said. “He gave me 10 minutes and for that I am eternally grateful.”
Nease was able to let her father know that everyone was there with him and that they all loved him.
“I will never forget that moment,” she said. “Dad, we love you and we will never forget you.”