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In Memoriam: Chief Petty Officer John Keith Bemis

Monsignor and Father Jim, thank you for your inspiring words.

From the Marines, Lt. Commander Abdo, and from the Navy, Corpsman Ruddich, Commander Bock, Senior Chief Matthews, Chief Hall, Chief Petty Officer-Select Jennifer Duarte, Chief Baney, Chief Select Dilloway, Chief Select Blake, Petty Officer Englehart and all other uniformed personnel, you honor Keith and us with your presence. We also thank Commander Gerald Olin and Master Chief Michele Curtain of the U.S.S. Independence for their kindness and assistance.

Steve, we thank you for that motorcycle escort last week. We also thank the people of Delphos for their human wall of support.

Likshio, welcome to Ohio and thank you for making the long trip from Tijuana.

I am the brother of Keith’s mother Susanne and Keith’s Godfather. I’m here to tell you a few stories that hopefully illustrate the true character of Chief Petty Officer John Keith Bemis.

His full name was John Keith Bemis, but since we already had so many Johns in the family – my mother’s father, her brother, my father and my brother, we all called the first son of Sue and Tony Bemis "Keith."

As you may remember, Arnold Schwarzenegger was Keith’s favorite action movie star. When he moved from making action films to California Governor, Arnold’s favorite habit was to describe everything – a movie he did, a campaign he won or a weightlifting record he set – as "FANTASTICK."

I’m going to borrow Arnold’s favorite word and apply it to Keith – he really was fantastic. He was simply a good, good kid: A loyal son, a loving brother, a dedicated sailor and my closest nephew.

The first thing Commander Olin told me after expressing his condolences was that he wanted to emphasize what a tremendous asset Keith was to the US Navy. What stood out from Commander Olin’s tribute to Keith was that he was always willing to help out and that’s how I remember him. He was always there for everyone.

I knew Keith from the moment he was born, but I really got to know him in the late 1990s when he would come to stay the summer in Santa Monica to train for football season. Every day we’d go over to the Santa Monica College Track to either run or lift weight or sometimes both. There were also some USC players training there and they showed Keith a few pointers including something called a “Navy Seal push-up,” an 8-part exercise that combined push-ups, sit-ups, squat thrusts and chin-ups. When Keith first started training, he could only do about 15 or 20. By the end of the summer, he could do over 100.

On his last Sunday of training, we were over at the field and this handicapped kid named David was trying to kick extra points.  Keith played on Special Teams at St. John’s and went over to teach him how to kick properly. David would miss the ball and say: “sorry Kevin.” We’d say his name is Keith and then David would miss the ball again and say: “sorry Kyle.” We’d remind David that the name was Keith. Poor David must have missed 20 kicks and called Keith 20 different names that began with K, including girls’ names like Kim, Kathleen and Karen. Finally, Keith got David to kick an extra point that was good and we all went home laughing about the missed names. And of course, that fall, Delphos St. John’s supplied a happy ending by winning the State Championship.