Coming Back Home
As Steve Kassay walks around the University of Georgia Health Sciences Campus, hand-in-hand with his wife Nancy, he points out places that spark memories.
Steve has returned to the campus he called home for six months when the grounds of the Health Sciences Campus were used as the Navy Supply Corps School for the U.S. Navy. The Navy Supply Corps was at this location on Prince avenue from 1953 – 2010. During this time, all active-duty supply corps officers in the U.S. Navy were trained in Athens.
Following its closing in 2010, the Navy transferred the property to the U.S. Department of Education who then deeded the property to the University of Georgia. The campus now houses the Augusta University/ University of Georgia Medical Partnership and the University of Georgia College of Public Health.
Steve suffers from the early stages of dementia, but remembers the mornings spent in Royar Square in front of Winnie Davis Hall with amazing accuracy.
“This is where we would line up in the mornings,” Steve said. “If we weren’t dressed just right, we would get demerits.”
Steve was born on March 12, 1942 in Cleveland and is 77 years young. He graduated from Purdue University in 1964, followed by graduate school at Tulane University.
After one year at Tulane, he decided to leave the university.
“I was tired of school,” he said.
That was when Steve started thinking about a different future.
“I looked at the draft board and realized my chances of being drafted were very high,” he said. “That’s what led me to join the Navy.”
Steve settled on the Navy through the process of elimination.
“I’m flatfooted, so the Army wouldn’t take me, and the Air Force wanted you in for five years, so I worked my way to the Navy and met with a recruiter so they could take a look at me,” Steve said. “And that’s how I ended up in the Navy.”
In June of 1965, he started Officer Candidate School in Rhode Island.
“They turn you into military,” Steve said of OCS. “Or at least try to.”
Steve said OCS was more about breaking you down mentally than physically.
“They would tell us to do these impossible things like read nine hundred pages in a book each night,” said Steve. “Others were going crazy trying to do these things, and I told them to sit back and relax, because it was impossible.”
“Steve doesn’t like rules,” said Nancy. “And they would get demerits for dressing wrong, being late, anything.”
Nancy said Steve found his way around a few things.
“He couldn’t make a bed to save his life,” she said, “so he traded off with his roommate. The roommate would make the bed, and Steve would help with academics.”
Steve said he found his way to the Supply Corps kind of like he did with the Navy itself—the process of elimination.
“I couldn’t see well, so I couldn’t drive a ship,” he said.
He left OCS in September of 1965 and got word he would be coming to Athens to go through Navy Supply School.
“Up until then I didn’t know where the South was,” Steve said. “My family didn’t travel, so my whole world was within 100 of Cleveland.”
He arrived in Athens in October of 1965 after driving the whole way from Ohio.
“It was like going to school,” Steve said of his time here.
The Kassays are pretty certain that Steve lived in what is now Miller Hall and currently houses the University of Georgia College of Public Health faculty.
“I enjoyed my time in Athens,” said Steve.
Following his training at the Navy Supply Corps School, Steve left Athens in March 1966 for San Diego where he worked on the USS Nereus. The Nereus was a submarine tender, and supply officers on board made sure submarines were stocked and supplied properly.
During his time in San Diego, Steve was promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade before working his way to Lieutenant.
In August of 1968, Steve was released from active duty and became listed as a reserve officer.
Nancy and Steve met in Santa Monica, California in August of 1971. At the time, he was selling medical insurance with New York Life and made a personal sales call to her office. They later married in Las Vegas, Nevada, on December 21, 1972.
“The service was performed by a real minister, not Elvis!” said Nancy.
In June of 1974, Steve was granted honorable discharge from the Navy. Following this, Kassay spent the majority of his career in the computer software business and also taught math for 12 years.
Steve and Nancy decided to move to Athens from Los Angeles in 2003 after they had both retired. Nancy still has family in south Georgia, and the two also wanted the atmosphere of a college town.
In the fall of 2018, the Kassays made a trip to the Augusta University/ University of Georgia Medical Partnership to donate some of Steve’s old Navy items—his sword (engraved with his name), his hat, and insignias. The Kassays do not have children wanted the memorabilia to go to a special place.
“We didn’t want to give the items to someone they don’t mean anything to,” said Nancy.
“That sword is significant,” said Steve’s caregiver Kaitlyn Quinn. “It represents an accomplishment during a time in his life, and he wanted it to be taken care of.”
When Steve and Nancy were invited back to the Medical Partnership to tour the campus and give an interview, Nancy said Steve was giddy with excitement.
“This is all he’s been talking about” she said. “I’ve heard about it every single day.”
Staff members at the Medical Partnership are going through ways to properly display Kassay’s Navy belongings with the honor that they deserve.
As for Steve, he feels glad that his Navy items have returned to their home.
“It’s a great place for them to be,” he said. “I’m thrilled they’re back.”