Michael David Sealey, 73, passed away May 31, 2020 at the Sanford Vermillion Care Center in Vermillion SD.
He was born December 25, 1946, the son of John and Agnes (Roberts) Sealey and grew up on the family farm near Meckling SD. After graduating from Meckling High, he attended SDSU. He then enlisted, at the age of 19, in the US Navy on May 19, 1966. He took his Basic Training at the Naval Training Center, San Diego, CA. Following basic training, Mike shipped out from San Diego to Okinawa, the USFJ (United States Forces Japan) and served as an engineman on board whatever ship he was assigned to. Like all service personnel, Mike and the crew from his ship were given occasional shore leave for a little R & R on the island of Okinawa. Mike got to see some of its beauty and experience the primarily Japanese lifestyle of the island.
After 18 months aboard ship in the waters off Okinawa, Mike was deployed to Danang,Vietnam where he spent the next 18 months on Supply/Gun ships, as chief engineer. The job of the boats was to transport supplies up and down the Cua Viet river, on the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) between North and South Vietnam. Mike’s job, now as a PO3 (Petty Officer 3rd Class), was to keep the boat motors running and provide backup on the guns if needed. The river was littered with underwater mines which some overloaded boats fell victim to, too often either just ahead of Mike’s boat or traveling just a short distance behind it. North Vietnamese snipers and the sounds of distant gun fire were also a reason for constant vigilance on each and every trip up and down the river.
In November 1969 Mike received his Honorable discharge orders and returned to the USA. During his term of service, Mike was awarded the National Defense Service Medal; the Viet Nam Service Medal with FMF Combat Insignia with two Bronze Stars; the Republic of Viet Nam Campaign Medal with Device and the Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon.
Following his discharge from the Navy, Mike went back to school at SDSU. In 1972, following the Rapid City flood, Mike went out to help with rescue and recovery and took a job with a construction company. He later moved to Salt Lake City to work on a construction crew. He also worked as a mechanic for European Motors in SLC and Bozeman MT before returning to SD.
The Navy was not the only service Mike gave to his country. In the spring of 1974, he joined the US Peace Corps for a 2 year tour of duty. His assignment was Lesotho in South Africa. His duties were fixing machinery, building roads, building shelters and homes, teaching agricultural technology, and helping modernize a hospital with electricity. After his two years were up, Mike stayed on in Lesotho to help finish the work at the hospital. He had learned enough of the local language to converse adequately while teaching basic skills to his helpers with the project. During this time he met an entrepreneur from England who asked him to join his company. As an employee with Philroy LTD, Mike traveled through Europe, learned Spanish by living with a family in Spain for 4 months, and then traveled to South America to the fishing town of Concepcion, Chile. He spent the next 3 years building a fish canning factory, hiring the employees from this fishing community, and marketing their products to other parts of the world.
In September 1979, while on a trip home from Chile to visit his parents near Meckling, Mike, at the age of 32, was severely injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. He lost his speech and the ability to use his arms and legs. His world travels ended. A head injury left him totally disabled. From 1980 to 1988 Mike was cared for by his family at home both in SD and in AZ. Since then he has lived in a nursing home, first in Alcester, SD, then Vermillion, SD. Mike lived at the Sanford Vermillion Care Center in Vermillion SD for the last 20 years.
Since 1987 he used an augmentative device for communication. With the aid of his speech device/computer he could communicate and control his electronics (TV in particular), and would gladly share his story if you had a mind to listen. His favorite sport to watch was Tennis but he still watched an occasional football or basketball game. His druthers, though, would be a good game of cribbage and as his family and 4 very special friends who played with him at the home over the last 20 years would tell you — he had no mercy when it came to cribbage. Mike also loved remembering the escapades shared at Meckling High School — from football to stealing watermelons! Mike’s life experiences were hardly forgotten during the last 40 years. Mike’s Navy uniforms have been donated to the W. H. Over Museum. They are the only Vietnam uniforms found by the museum.
Surviving Mike are his sister Jane (Mike) Slattery; nieces and nephews — Nick (Cindy) Slattery, Tom (Jean) Slattery, Jim (Carmen) Slattery, Randy (Nancy) Huot, Cliff (Sherrie) Huot, Ladonna (Donovan) Leach, Kim (Jim) VanderWoude and Bill (Susan) Sealey; 23 grand nieces and nephews; brother-in-law Ron (Joan) Huot; sister-in-law Alice (Doug) Peters.
Preceding him in death were his parents; sister Nancy Huot; brother John “Joe” Sealey and grand nephew Matthew Sealey.
Jane and the family wish to extend their heartfelt “Thank You” to Dr. Dendinger, Dr. Mitchel and the entire staff at the Sanford Vermillion Care Center for the care and concern for Mike, especially during this time of the COVID-19 crisis. Mike was COVID negative.
Services are pending due to the current COVID-19 crisis. He will be buried at the Meckling Cemetery.
Kober Funeral Home of Vermillion has been entrusted with the service. Condolences may be posted online to www.koberfuneralhome.com.
Yankton Press & Dakotan
June 2, 2020