Written by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jordan Akiyama.
There are many attributes that make the Coast Guard the organization it is today. From the officer and enlisted workforce, to civilian employees and volunteers, to veterans, they all work in tandem to create a well-oiled machine. However, every once in a while, someone stands apart from the rest due to their selflessness and dedication to not only the Coast Guard, but the community around them.
On the northern end of Base Seattle sits the Pacific Northwest Museum. Established in 1976, the museum is curated by Gene Davis, a retired Coast Guard officer more commonly referred to as “The Captain.”
The museum opened Aug. 4, 1976 and upon Davis’ retirement in 1978 he began working there; work being a relative term for Davis.
“… I don’t use the word job or work. You wouldn’t keep coming back if you didn’t enjoy it, right? It’s fun,” said Davis.
“It’s fun” is the general consensus that comes from Davis and the other volunteers when describing their duties at the museum. And given the history that Davis has with the museum, one would have to believe him. For the past 34 years, he’s served as the museums main curator; given tours to countless visitors; volunteered more than 40,000 hours; is the volunteer president of the organization operating the museum as a non-profit organization; and has been key to the museums organization and success.
A native of Kansas and Colorado, Davis was an enlisted electronics technician and officer candidate school applicant. He retired as a captain in the 13th Coast Guard District and was instrumental in setting up Base Seattle when the Coast Guard took it over from the Army.
“I was an electronics officer in the district and then for two years I was planning officer,” said Davis. “My job was to work with the Army when we took over Base Seattle and write all the specs we had to send to [Coast Guard] headquarters on what we were going to do with the new base.”
Davis was also instrumental in putting together the museum during its early stages. Coordinating with Adm. Chester Richmond, the then-district commander, much of the museum’s foundation was laid by Davis.
“I wrote a letter to all the units in the district and all the retired people, saying we’re going to open up a museum, we want articles for it, and we won’t ask where you got them,” said Davis. “So we got a lot of things returned.”
On the floor of the museum are display cases of antiques, pictures and artifacts dating back to the Coast Guard’s youth. However, below it lays a labyrinth of treasures that would overwhelm the most devout collector. The basement is littered with blueprints of old ships and trinkets dating back to World War II; Davis knows the story behind every single one.
In December of last year, Davis was awarded the Coast Guard Distinguished Public Service Award for his time and dedication to the Coast Guard. It is the highest public recognition the commandant of the Coast Guard can give. This award represents extraordinary heroism in advancing the Coast Guard’s mission, exceptional coordination and cooperation in matters pertaining to the Coast Guard’s responsibilities and personal and direct contribution to the Coast Guard that had a direct bearing on the accomplishment of the Coast Guard’s responsibilities to its citizens.
While this is an honor Davis has earned for everything he has contributed to the Coast Guard, Davis is a man who eats, sleeps and breaths Coast Guard blue. From all he has accomplished while in service to everything he has contributed in his 34 years of retirement, Davis remains the backbone of the Pacific Northwest Museum and an invaluable member to the Coast Guard family.