Retired US Navy Chief Petty Officer Kenneth (Gun) Lamar Speight, 87 of Mountain Green, Utah died peacefully in the early afternoon of Monday, April 5, 2021. He had moved to Apple Village Assisted Living Home 13 days earlier and had a beautiful room with an awesome view. Previous to this move, he lived with his daughter, Ellen, and her husband, Daren, in their beautiful Mountain Green home for nearly six years. He battled cancer and Parkinson’s Disease admirably and with perseverance and good humor for many years.
Kenneth was born on October of 1933 in the little cotton mill town of Albermarle, North Carolina to John and Ester Davis Speight. His mother died 2 years after his birth from a brain tumor. His father remarried Pansy Mills two years after that. With Pansy’s daughter (Grace) and John’s three boys (John Jr., Frank, and Kenneth), they made a nice blended family. John and Pansy had two more children, (Tom and Betty Ann).
As a blue-eyed, blonde-haired boy, Kenneth was a town favorite. He had a winning, open personality and was always accompanied by his little dog, Brownie. While still quite young he walked into the local barbershop and asked for a cut and a shave. The barber hoisted him into a chair, draped him in a cape, and obliged him, as the men in the shop had a good laugh conversing with the audacious little boy! Not many years later, he talked the local grocer into hiring him as a stock boy. He received an apron, broom and instructions for the job which he proudly filled.
Averse to working in the cotton mill right out of high school, Kenneth hoped to join the Air Force but the recruiter said they were full. On his way to see the Marine recruiter, he was intercepted by the Navy recruiter who signed him up!
A career Navy man, Kenneth received his nickname, “Gun”, in the military. Over the course of his career, Gun made his way up the enlisted ranks to Chief Petty Officer. He was an airplane crew member whose career spanned the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Cold War. He was also a well-trained airplane and helicopter mechanic. During the early NASA programs he flew in Navy radar planes that tracked the the liftoffs, progress, and splashdowns of many of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space missions.
Gun was assigned or deployed at Naval Air Stations in the United States and around the world. After attending boot camp in San Diego, California, he continued training and served in flight crew and mechanic capacities throughout his career. During the Cold War and while still single, he was stationed at NAS Rota, Spain. While there, he was in a flight crew flying the A-3 Sky Warrior, and spent time in Italy, Sicily, Turkey, Germany, England, Greece, Libya and Pakistan. He was then stationed at NAS North Island in San Diego, California. From there he made five-six month deployments to NAS Sangley Point, Philippines (where he was one of an 11 man crew on a P5M Marlin). He was later stationed with his family at different Naval stations in the Philippine Islands and NAS Iwakuni, Japan.
Gun’s sunset tour was at NAS Jacksonville, Florida, where he was attached to the Helicopter Attack Squadron 1 (HS1). He was Maintenance Chief and he supervised about 200 people. While there, his skipper found out Gun had never spent a day at sea on a Navy ship, so the skipper ordered him to spend 4 days on a ship at sea before he retired! After retirement, he got 100% disability pay because in Viet Nam he had been exposed to Agent Orange, the precipitating factor in his cancer and Parkinson’s Disease.
In the mid-60s, while stationed at NAS Point Mugu in Oxnard, California, Gun met his one and only true love, Marion. They eventually married and Gun cheerfully took on her 4 children. He considered them, their spouses, children, grand children, great grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren his own.
Gun loved to hunt and fish as a boy. He ambitiously and tenaciously kept fishing as he got older! However, he was usually unsuccessful, probably because of the grandkids also “fishing” (splashing around in the water!). Golf was Gun’s more successful and satisfying hobby. He continued to golf into his early 80’s. His capstone golf experience—a hole in one—twice!!
Gun was a fun loving, humorous, and easygoing dad and grandpa, but occasionally he would disapprove of a family member’s behavior or actions. He let them know of his displeasure with a private, quiet, gently restrained, “one sided talk.” Understandably, he left this Earth with all the adoration, love and respect of a blood-related head of family.
Gun was preceded in death by his wife Marion, his parents John and Pansy, his brothers John Jr., and Frank, his sisters Grace and Betty Ann, and his son Cody (LibThatcher-Marsh still living) Marsh, and a great granddaughter Mandy. He is survived by his brother Tom (Lurene) Speight, daughters Robyne (Roy) Callaway, Anne (Nef) Martinez, Ellen (Daren) Child, 13 grandchildren, numerous great grandchildren, and six great great grandchildren.
Our family expresses fond gratitude to Dr. Agerwal, and his fine team at Huntsman Cancer Institute. We won’t forget the kindness of all the smiling intake and appointment clerks, doctors, PA’s, nurses and staff there that skillfully treated Gun’s prostate cancer for 3 years. Gun’s quality of life and comfort in his last two and a half years was greatly enhanced by the wonderful staff at Brio Hospice. Special and deeply felt gratitude to the entire hospice team. The close associations developed with his many caretakers are warmly valued and will be greatly missed.
We express affectionate gratitude to in-home caretakers, Delaina and Jackie, who made it possible to keep Gun at home until his last several days.
The family will celebrate Gun’s life in a private service at a later date.
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