What would move him to drive straight through from Phoenix to Seawolf Park’s Galveston Naval Museum? Well, a Ford pickup, with a stove and huge refrigerator in the back. But what motivated him is a longer, more interesting story.

Mike Morin, retired air traffic controller and Army medic, also ran a catering company. See a Navy connection to USS Stewart and Cavalla yet?

Well, back about eight years ago, Chief Mac Christy, a former destroyer escort engineering chief petty officer, continued to lead men (and women) by organizing work weeks to save USS Stewart from completely rusting away. As he’s known to say, “rust never sleeps.”

Folks of all ilk came from all over the country to lend their expertise, whatever skill level, to restore the ship and submarine.

The orange rust attack was first slowed, then over the years held in check, and the past year is in retreat as more of the ship is reclaimed and opened to the public.

The rust battle is often in closed areas still off limits for safety reasons, such as the engine compartments, which are only available on Chief Ross Garcia’s behind-the-scenes tour at 1 p.m. Thursdays. Reserve your spot at https://www.galvestonnavalmuseum.com.

Slowly, week by work week — more to see: the crews head (bathroom, no privacy here), the captain’s cabin, the bridge, the forward 3-inch gun, officer country and most recently the “Goat Locker,” where the chief petty officers bunked and hung out. The compartment also houses the first display focused on a plank owner — an original crew member who boarded right here in Galveston in 1943, Chief Rudy Biro. He’s still going strong and inspected the ship last year in person.

So, why do folks from all over paint, scrape rust, or fix complex 75-year-old machines?

Certainly, we can all have tasks at home. I even hire painters so I can go work on the ship. Yes, so I may not be crazy, I eat well.

Bringing us back to Mike, the cook, his wife, Susan, the baker. First of all, he’s full of life — even at 4 a.m., okay make that 5:30 a.m. They were living in Kansas, Susan worked with Virgie, Chief Mac’s wife. Chief Mac worked his recruiting magic and soon an Army guy was fixing 400 meals with custom-made omelets, 600 cookies, 360 brownies and other snacks, a traditional turkey dinner in November, and fresh seafood dinner in May, for 35 hardworking folks.

My first week of the “best food in the restoration fleet,” I moaned that I was going to gain more weight than on a 10-day cruise. Mike said “No you won’t, you will work it all off.” You know he was right.

Mike’s motivational statement each morning above the coffee pot, keeps us thinking as we joke with old and new friends, while beating back rust.

Come join us May 1 through May 8. Email machief@hughes.net. You can even work with me in the engine room.

Alvin Sallee lives in Galveston.

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