But this time it’s different. The Ngs will be moving near Jimmy’s elderly mother in the Tacoma area.
The Ngs’ last Kodiak tour began in 1997 when Jimmy took on the responsibility of commanding officer of the air station, a position he had filled at the CG command in Sitka. Before retiring from the Coast Guard, Jimmy served as commanding officer of the CG Support Center.
Reflecting over his time as a pilot, Jimmy said he remembers the cases in which people were lost.
“It’s not about the big rescues, but about the ones that didn’t make it,” he said.
One of Jimmy’s toughest missions was picking up the body of his best friend, Pat Rivas, who was on a CG helicopter that crashed near Cape Hintchenbrook, Alaska, as it responded to a fisherman’s cry for help. The fisherman survived, but all Coastguardsmen on the helicopter perished.
“We’re bonded through death and sickness,” said Jimmy.
Jimmy was in the life-saving business, so he naturally took on a post-retirement job with Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center.
Jimmy started out as PKIMC’s community affairs director and director of the Kodiak Island Health Care Foundation, which opened the Kodiak Community Health Center.
“In concert with the Kodiak Island Borough engineering department, we constructed the new clinic facility which tends to the needs of the “under-served populations,” Jimmy said.
Since the clinic was opened in 2003, tens of thousands of appointments have been made.
Once the community health center opened, Jimmy started working as the Providence project manager for the building of the long term care center. When Jimmy was a couple of years into that project, the PKIMC chaplain resigned. The hospital administrator and ministry personnel in Anchorage asked him if he’d take over the spiritual care department.
Jimmy said he didn’t have the qualifications. He was told he had the heart and life for it. Instead of running away from the new opportunity, he embraced it. He hired Philo (Innocent) Hayes, a deacon in the Orthodox Church, as his assistant.
The men set a goal to meet the spiritual needs of every patient, Jimmy said.
“We saw that we didn’t have any female chaplains. To have a guy go into the birthing area for a young girl who is having baby the first time, might be kind of scary, so we thought we should get some females.”
Within a short time, three ladies volunteered. Joy was one of them.
“I focused most of my attention on the care center, because I really love the elders of Kodiak,” Joy said. “It’s been a great privilege to get to know them.”
Beth Davis and Amy Miller also volunteered.
“They all bring different skills to the program,” Jimmy said.
Miller’s understanding of Tagalog helps her communicate with the Filipino patients.
Jimmy, whose father was from China, understands how cultural nuances come into play in the medical profession.
“Knowing the culture is important. You can say something to somebody and they don’t hear it the way you think you’re saying it.”
Besides working for Providence, Jimmy was a representative for the Missile Defense Agency which operates integrated flight tests at the Narrow Cape rocket launch site.
He handled the logistics of shipping rockets and equipment in and out of Kodiak for the launch.
It was a seasonal, as-needed position that sometimes required his attention 18 to 20 hours a day.
As Jimmy’s guest, Joy got to watch two of the launches.
“We got to see (the rocket) take off. It was so silent at first. Then you could feel the sound rolling up the hill. It was deafening. It was a graphic example of the fact that light travels faster than sound, because (the rocket) was way up in the air before you even heard it.
The coming of the rocket launch site is one of many changes the Ngs witnessed during their time on the island.
Jimmy first came here on the ice breaker, Staten Island, in 1973. At the time he was stationed in Seattle.
One of his earliest Kodiak memories is standing in the presence of Superior Court Judge, Roy Madsen, advocating for one of the seamen who had gotten into trouble in a bar the night before.
“I tried to talk Judge Roy into letting him in my custody. He permitted that.” Incidentally, Jimmy and Madsen became good friends.
When Jimmy returned to Kodiak in 1978, he was a married man and planned to stay for awhile.
The family was transferred to Cape Cod in 1985 and, after serving in Sitka and a tour on the commandant’s staff at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, DC, the Ngs returned to Kodiak.
Through their tours, the Ngs formed a strong connection to Kodiak. Their three daughters had a lot to do with this bonding.
The Ngs came in 1978 with one toddler, Suzanne. Their second daughter, Jenny, was born here. When they came back 18 years later, they had another toddler, Sarah.
Sarah, who is now in college, plans to stay in Kodiak this summer, working for Andrew Airways.
The Ngs became a “cancer family” in 2008 when their grandson was diagnosed with leukemia.
“The community walked beside us and supported us,” Joy said. “That whole cancer journey is quite an experience. We grew as a family; we grew in our faith and we gained compassion for people who are going through hard times.”
Dealing with their grandson’s sickness played a large part in Jimmy’s acceptance as head of Providence’s chaplain program. It also explains “why Joy is such a good chaplain,” Jimmy said. “We look back on these trials that God put us through (and know) He was preparing Joy and I to minister to people who we now understand. We thought we understood, but until then, we had no clue what it was like to hurt when your child has cancer.”
After three and a half years of chemotherapy, their grandson is doing well, the Ngs said.
Reflecting over their lives in Kodiak, Jimmy said that they stayed here for the people. “It’s the spirit of the people that we’re going to miss.”